HOUSTON – Authorities searched for a death row inmate Friday who slipped off his handcuffs, changed into street clothes and bluffed his way out of jail by flashing a fake ID badge with a photo of himself.
Charles Victor Thompson, who was sentenced to death for killing his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, got past at least four employees at the Harris County Jail by claiming he worked for the Texas Attorney General’s office.
“He’s a charming, affable, articulate guy and I’m sure he used his charming abilities to talk his way out of the jail,” said Thompson’s attorney, Terrence Gaiser. “He didn’t present himself as the desperate, I’ll-do-anything type.”
The sheriff’s department is investigating whether Thompson, 35, had inside help. Investigators found a truck Friday that they said might be connected to the brazen escape.
Sheriff’s Lt. John Martin said officials fear Thompson might retaliate against relatives of the woman he murdered. “He’s extremely dangerous,” Martin said.
Thompson, 35, was condemned in 1999 for the shooting deaths a year earlier of Dennise Hayslip, 39, and Darren Keith Cain, 30.
He had been transferred to the jail in Houston because an appeals court had ordered that he be resentenced. A jury issued a new death sentence Oct. 28, but Thompson was still waiting to be transferred to a prison about 75 miles away.
On Thursday, a deputy took Thompson to a meeting room because Thompson said he had a meeting with his attorney. The visitor, however, was not Gaiser, who said he had no plans to meet Thompson that day. Investigators were questioning the visitor.
The visitor left after a short time, and once Thompson was alone he managed to remove his handcuffs and slip off his bright orange prison jumpsuit, Martin said.
He put on a dark blue shirt, khaki pants and white tennis shoes, which authorities believe were the clothes Thompson wore during his sentencing. Martin said investigators do not know how he managed to keep them.
Thompson somehow left the prisoner’s booth in the visiting room.
“The booth should be locked,” Martin said. “We don’t know exactly whether the door was never locked or he was able to defeat the locking mechanism.”
Once out of the room, Thompson flashed a fake ID badge that apparently no one examined as he passed at least four jail employees at work stations, including one who let him into the visitors’ lobby, Martin said. From there, Thompson walked out into the street.
“Nobody got a real good look at the card, if it was real or not,” Martin said. The card had Thompson’s photograph.
This was the first escape from the three-year old jail, which has about 3,300 inmates.