South Mississippi publisher gives ride to stranger who turns out to be escapee, convicted murderer

Published 1:39 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The publisher of a weekly newspaper in south Mississippi says he unwittingly gave a car ride to a convicted murderer who had just escaped from a state prison near his home.

Officials described the prisoner as “dangerous.” He was recaptured days later.

Russell Turner of Greene County Herald said Tuesday that he went home around midday July 5 and a “winded and flustered” stranger was sitting on the steps outside his house, about 1.5 miles from South Mississippi Correctional Institution.

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Turner said the apparently unarmed man was wearing green pants and a long-sleeved camouflage shirt — not prison garb. The man told him he had wrecked a motorcycle and needed a ride to the hospital where his wife was in labor.

“I knew something was off, but I clearly didn’t know he was an escaped convict,” Turner said.

Public notice had not yet been given about the escape, and the stories about the motorcycle wreck and a wife in labor turned out to be untrue.

Turner said he gave the man a ride to the hospital to get him away from the home.

After dropping him off, Turner spoke to local authorities and learned from an emergency management official that 47-year-old Michael F. Wilson, also known as “Pretty Boy Floyd,” had escaped South Mississippi Correctional Institution.

Wilson was sentenced to two life sentences in September 2015 after being convicted of murder for killing two people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2014.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections issued a news release at about 3 p.m. July 5 saying Floyd was discovered missing just over two hours earlier. Electronic billboards around the state flashed Floyd’s picture and warned he could be dangerous.

Wilson was captured two days later in the coastal city of Ocean Springs, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of the prison. He is now in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, in the northern part of the state.

Turner published a column in the July 12 edition of his 3,000-circulation newspaper, saying the south Mississippi prison is severely understaffed and criticizing legislators for letting that happen.

“My view now is that if state officials are not going to commit to making sure the facility is adequately staffed and the people who work there are fairly compensated and supported, then it is time to shut it down or drastically scale back its mission (and inmate population),” he wrote. “The people of Greene County deserve better.”