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Two Inmates Escape


Authorities are searching for two inmates who disappeared Sunday night from the Northern State Correctional Center.

Police identified the escapees as James A. Lertola, 23, formerly of Rutland, and Craig Whitman, 32, formerly of Bennington. Both are considered dangerous.

Lertola was serving time for a prior escape. Whitman was incarcerated on charges of aggravated assault and drugs, according to police.

Both were present for the 6 p.m. head count on Sunday. However, when correctional officials did the 10 p.m. head count, both Lertola and Whitman were missing.

Authorities were unsure Monday how it was the two escaped. They couldn't find any evidence the fence had been breached. The possibility exists that the two might be concealed somewhere within the correctional center complex itself. This morning, authorities began combing the grounds of the jail.

Sunday night and early Monday morning, local, county and state police searched the area around the facility, which is on Glen Road.

As part of their efforts, they tried to notify residents of two nearby houses. Authorities succeeded in reaching occupants of one house; no one was home at the other.

Lertola is described as being 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 165 pounds, brown hair and brown eyes. He'd been sent to the Newport jail in December 1996.

Whitman is described as being 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 180 pounds, brown hair and blue eyes. He came to the Newport facility in March 1998, transferred there from the correctional center in Rutland.

That authorities can recall, this is the first disappearance of prisoners from the Newport facility. There was an escape attempt several years ago that was thwarted.

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Copyright 1999

The Caledonian-Record



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