An investigation launched by the Dawson News & Advertiser, after receiving an anonymous news tip, revealed a man sentenced to 15 years for statutory rape and child molestation walked away from a Dawson County work release program one of two inmates who escaped in June.
A third inmate was accidentally released from jail the same month.
In what Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle is calling a failure to follow procedures, three deputies face disciplinary action.
Convicted sex offender David Lee Heard, 33, of Dawsonville, was sentenced in December 2002 by the Dawson County Superior Court to serve 15 years, with two in prison, for statutory rape and child molestation.
Since then, Heard has violated probation twice.
In September 2014, a warrant for his arrest was issued for driving without a license, no proof of insurance and attempting to conceal the identity, of a vehicle on or about July 28, 2014 in Forsyth County, according to court documents.
In March 2015, Heard violated a special condition of his probation that states: you shall not create, possess, access or control any type of photography, video, rendering, or digital imagery of any minor, according to a warrant for his arrest signed by Judge Kathleen Gosselin and Probation Officer Tracy Gaddis.
Under Georgia law, OCGA 42-1-9 (2015), Heard was still eligible for work release, according to Carlisle.
Then, on May 20, Judge Kathleen Gosselin revoked Heards participation in the countys work release program and the remaining 13 months, 27 days of his probation, according to court documents.
Gosselin was reached for comment.
What I signed on May 20 would have let his work release, if he was eligible, be revoked, she said. After that its up to the sheriffs office.
Carlisle stated the May 20th document sentenced him to work release.
Either way, Heards participation in the county work release program continued. He escaped about noon June 22 the time he was due back in jail.
They went out looking for him, but didnt find him, Carlisle said.
Heard turned himself in the next day, on June 23. A warrant for his arrest was issued the same day.
The problem is our policy says any type of sex offender is not eligible (to continue in work release), Carlisle said July 23. The judge ordered him to go out on work release during the day.
Heard remains incarcerated at the Dawson County jail awaiting trial.
Ive got another sex offender on work release, Carlisle said. To be honest with you, every county has this. You dont want it to happen. I dont want to downplay it, but its not that unusual. Its how you deal with it after it happens that counts.
Separately, Dawson County inmate Christen Shannon Geier, 36, escaped June 28 while being transported by Detention Officer Laura Bishop to Chestatee Hospital in Lumpkin County.
She let her go in to use the restroom in the hospital, and she went out the back door, Carlisle said.
Geier fled to a nearby Days Inn in Dahlonega, where she was captured a short time later.
They got her back in custody that night, Carlisle said.
An internal investigation, Carlisle said, is pending.
I cant say what the discipline will be yet, but theyre looking at that, he said. The only concern I have is officers not following policy. Its not a safety issue for citizens. Youre dealing with inmates, and any time you move an inmate from jail to a hospital or anywhere, they have an opportunity to get away.
Geiers original charges were theft by shoplifting in March 2014. She remains incarcerated at the Dawson County jail.
INMATE MISTAKENLY RELEASED
Also in June, a father and son incarcerated at the Dawson County jail, who share the same first and last name, led to the wrong inmate being released.
Michael Evans, the father, was in here for a drug court sanction, and the other was serving time in prison, Carlisle said. An order came down for Michael Evans to be released, and an officer pulled up Michael Evans and released the wrong one.
The son, Michael Forrest Evans, was arrested Aug. 19, 2014 on multiple charges, including fleeing an officer, possession/use of drug related objects, marijuana (less than one ounce), driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, speeding, among others. On Sept. 16, he was arrested for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, according to court documents.
He was accidentally released from the Dawson County jail on June 19 and remained at large two days before turning himself in, Carlisle said.
We had officers from the detention center and CID (Criminal Investigation Division) out looking for him as soon as the mistake was made and we became aware of it, he said.
Two detention officers, Sgt. Zach Stewart and Detention Officer Alex Pearson, are being disciplined. For his part, Stewart was given two days off without pay. He is appealing that decision, Carlisle said. Pearson is currently attending police academy, and will likely be disciplined upon his return.
It goes back to not following through on paperwork to make sure which Evans it was, Carlisle said. And that goes back to not following proper policy and procedures thats in place.
Evans remains incarcerated at the Dawson County jail.
NO INFO RELEASED TO PUBLIC
According to Carlisle, Dawson County Public Information Officer Capt. Tony Wooten was unaware of events surrounding the jail.
Tony was not involved at all, he said. When an inmate is gone, then the investigator and detention staff get on it and start tracking them down.
None of the inmates were considered a threat to public safety, Carlisle said.
When somebody escapes that is a danger to the public, you definitely want people to know about it, he said. But if you do it every time something like this happens, then youd be doing it all the time.