HOUSTON, Mo. – Law enforcement officers are searching for an inmate who overpowered a Texas County guard on Monday morning and then fled in a county van. Officers found the van late Monday morning in southeast Phelps County and are trying to determine if he stole another vehicle or is on foot.
The inmate on the run is Christopher A. Hunt, 33. He was wearing a green and white jumpsuit when he escaped.
Hunt was in jail for two counts of tampering with a motor vehicle last September in Cabool. He pleaded guilty on Monday morning in Phelps County after the case was transferred from Texas County. A circuit judge sentenced him to two consecutive 10-year prison sentences. Because he is classified as a prior and persistent offender, he would have to serve at least 85 percent of those sentences.
The tampering charged came after a pursuit in Wright and Texas counties last September. The Texas County prosecuting attorney charged him with two counts of tampering with a motor vehicle, three counts of assault or attempted assault of a law enforcement officer, armed criminal action and resisting arrest by fleeing. The prosecutor agreed to drop all but the tampering charges in exchange for the guilty pleas.
Hunt also faces a first-degree robbery charge in Greene County for stealing a car. According to the probable cause statement from that case, a man who was at a gas station on Kansas Expressway just south of Interstate 44 in Springfield said a man pointed a gun at him and then stole his car just before midnight last Sept. 9. That car turned up at a home in Texas County near Cabool after a chase. As officers arrested Hunt in Cabool, they say he sprayed two troopers with Mace.
Hunt was free on a $25,000 bond for that crime and has a pretrial conference set for July 26 before Circuit Judge Tom Mountjoy.
Officers found the abandoned stolen Texas County prisoner transport van along Phelps County Road 6300 near U.S. 63, just north of Texas County. Road blocks are set up and the search includes tracking dogs and a Highway Patrol helicopter.
The Houston Herald says the assault and escape occurred at 10:11 a.m. A Texas County sheriff’s department dispatcher refused to release any information when a reporter called. The Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed the escape in a tweet, and continued sending out information with the inmate’s photo and information.
The inmate overpowered the guard on U.S. 63 near Edgar Springs as they were on their way back to Houston from Rolla. The guard was uninjured.