Prison escapees may be in Memphis area - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Prison escapees may be in Memphis area

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Two men who escaped from a prison in Louisiana may be in the Memphis area, officials said Friday night.

Memphis police believe Ricky Wedgeworth and Darian Pierce have been spotted within the last few days in the Jackson, Tennessee area, and are likely en route to, or already in, the Memphis area.

Friday night, officials said both men have local ties to the area, and in a Cyber Watch alert, said Pierce has a sick child enrolled at Georgian Hills Elementary in Frayser.

"Yes we have taken every precaution after receiving information from the Tennessee Fusion Center," Police Director Larry Godwin said in a written statement. "I have instructed that fugitives picture be sent out in a cyber watch to put all citizens and uniform patrol on alert since the fugitives have ties to West Tennessee."

Earlier in the day, investigators said an alleged sighting of one of the two men near Arlington was a false alarm.

According to Shelby County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Chip Washington, a clerk at the Fred's on Highway 70 in Arlington told authorities one of the suspects may have entered the store to purchase survival equipment.

Law enforcement personnel from the TBI, Tennessee Highway Patrol, and Shelby County Sheriff's Office quickly searched the area surrounding the store for a white pick-up truck with Wyoming tags.

But after examining surveillance video from inside the store, it was determined the man was not one of the escapees.

"We tracked down the individual who she did spot," Washington said. "He has no connection whatsoever to the two individuals we're searching for at this time."

Pierce, 33, and Wedgeworth, 36, escaped one week ago from the Louisiana State Police Headquarters Compound, where they had been working, in a stolen state-issued van that was later found near St. Francisville in Louisiana.

Pierce is from Bogalusa, La., and is serving time for attempted second degree murder. Wedgeworth is from Memphis and is serving time for armed robbery.

Elsewhere Friday, authorities said the man who was kidnapped by the fugitives in Louisiana and found dead in an Alabama hotel was beaten and strangled.

Vicksburg, Miss., police Sgt. Sandra Williams says a preliminary autopsy report shows 53-year-old David Michael Cupps was beaten and had trauma around his neck, indicating strangulation.

Cupps' body was found Wednesday near a Comfort Inn in Bessemer, Ala. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent John Mehr said Pierce and Wedgeworth are responsible for Cupps' death.

Officials said Cupps, of the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Sunbury, was carjacked while he was in Vicksburg. Police officials from Vicksburg were in Alabama on Friday as part of their investigation.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. The AP contributed to this story.

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