Escaped Inmate Held on Charges After Massive Manhunt

He was ordered to be held in federal custody, as prosecutors consider him to be a flight risk

A man who escaped from a Rhode Island prison and was on the run for five days appeared Friday before a federal magistrate judge and was ordered held on an escape charge. 

James Walker Morales waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the escape case during a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Providence on Friday.

The judge approved a detention order based on his flight risk and danger to the community. His public defender, Olin Thompson, did not object. Thompson would not comment after court.

He appeared calm and healthy in court on Friday, with no visible injuries.

A court affidavit unsealed Friday says all of the inmates were accounted for during a 10:30 p.m. check on New Year's Eve, even though video surveillance showed Morales actually escaped at about 6:45 p.m. that day.

An affidavit unsealed Friday says all of the inmates were accounted for during a 10:30 p.m. check on Saturday, even though video surveillance showed Morales actually escaped at about 6:45 p.m. that day.

Morales was last seen at about 4:30 p.m. going outside to the recreation area alone, according to the affidavit.

Video surveillance shows him two hours later standing on a basketball hoop, climbing onto the roof through a hole created in the recreation area roof fence, then going down the side of the building and running toward the train tracks, the affidavit said.

Authorities say Morales followed the tracks to Interstate 95, where his prison clothing was found. An officer discovered he was missing from his cell shortly after the 10:30 p.m. check and notified his superiors at about 11 p.m., the affidavit said.

U.S. Marshal Jamie Hainsworth previously said the prison notified law enforcement authorities at 11:43 p.m. 

Morales' brazen escape prompted a massive manhunt before he was arrested by a Massachusetts State Police trooper in Somerville, Massachusetts on Thursday afternoon.

Prior to his arrest, he had tried to rob two banks in the area, but he did not get away with any money.

The first attempted robbery took place at the Bank of America at 727 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge around 9:30 a.m. Morales passed a note to the teller but did not get away with any money and fled in the direction of Harvard Square. The second attempted bank robbery occurred at Citizens Bank in Somerville.

He was eventually caught by an alert state police trooper near Route 28 and Mystic Avenue Thursday afternoon after a brief foot chase. A neighbor said dozens of police cruisers were on the scene within minutes.

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone discussed the capture of escaped Rhode Island inmate James Morales.

Morales, 35, broke out of Rhode Island's Wyatt Detention Facility on New Year's Eve by climbing a basketball hoop and a roof and then cutting and scaling barbed wire fences during recreation, according to the warden. It took hours for correctional officers to notice he was missing, and U.S. Marshals were notified about the escape nearly five hours after it happened.

During that time, Morales allegedly stole a getaway car and ditched it in Framingham, Massachusetts, where his ex-girlfriend lives.

Three corrections officers and one supervisor have been placed on leave pending an investigation into the escape.

In addition to the escape charge and the attempted bank robberies, Morales - a former Army reservist - is accused of stealing six assault rifles and 10 handguns from the Lincoln Stoddard Army Reserve Center in Worcester in 2015.

He was arrested in New York days after the theft, and most of the guns were later recovered.

Morales has a long criminal history dating back to 2009, including a child rape charge for allegedly sexually assaulting his friend's young daughter.

The prosecutor would not comment outside court Friday when asked where Morales is being held now.

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