Manhunt continues for DRCI escapee


Climbed fence, stole vehicle

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Clinton Orvill Swearingen IIMadras residents locked their doors, schools directed staff and students to "shelter in place," and the hospital went into lockdown mode on Monday, when many awoke to the news that an inmate had escaped sometime Sunday night from Deer Ridge Correctional Institution.

Prison surveillance footage showed that Clinton Orvill Swearingen II, 31, who had been in custody since Feb. 4, went over the 14-foot razor wire-topped fence surrounding the prison at 9:20 p.m. on May 4. The escape was discovered around 10:30 p.m.

by: SUSAN MATHENY - The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office deployed a search plane to look for escapee Clinton Swearingen on Monday.Swearingen, who likely left the facility wearing blue jeans with the word "inmate" and the DOC logo stenciled on the knee in orange, and a blue T-shirt with the word "inmate" and the DOC logo stenciled in orange on the front and back, is believed to have ditched the clothing and bloody socks behind a house on 10th and C streets in Madras.

The DOC described Swearingen as a "31-year-old Caucasian male, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes." He has a neck tattoo described as "Loyalty."

From the prison, the inmate headed north, where he stole a 1985 Chevrolet Blazer from the residence of Dotha and Jerry Patterson, of Madras, who learned of the prisoner's escape at 5:45 a.m.

Dotha Patterson had just gotten up and opened her computer when she read about the escape, "and made a flippant comment that I'd better check the vehicles," she said. "Then, the police knocked on the door and scared the life out of me."

When the officers asked if they were missing any vehicles, the Pattersons discovered that their blue, 1985 Chevy Blazer, with a transmission "about ready to go out," was missing, "so we knew he wouldn't get far."

By 11 a.m., the Pattersons were able to retrieve the vehicle, which was found earlier by a city police officer around Eighth and Pine streets. "There was just a little bit of blood on the steering wheel," she said.

"We're just thankful he wasn't a violent criminal," said Patterson. "I feel hugely disappointed and mad because DOC didn't notify us. We were promised from the get-go that we would receive a call from an automated call system. They never did call us."

Marissa Wilson, public information officer for DRCI, said that when the prison first opened, there was a notification system in place, but it needs to be updated.

"What we did do to notify people was work with law enforcement to go door to door," she said. "We recognize that this is a serious event and community safety is our number one priority."

"We're very sorry and we strive to be good neighbors, so we're going to work to update our system and have the appropriate contacts in place," said Wilson, who contacted the school district, city and county offices, two child care centers, the nursing home and the Madras campus of Central Oregon Community College first thing Monday morning.

As police investigated a reported sighting of the inmate, which was later proven to be false, St. Charles Madras went into lockdown for several hours in the morning, reopened, and shut down for another couple hours in the afternoon, while School District 509-J advised Madras Primary, Buff Intermediate and Madras High School to shelter in place.

During that time, there were reports that the inmate had a shaved head, but that was also false. "We keep updated pictures of (inmates), so as far as we're concerned, the picture we sent out is how he looked," said Wilson.

Swearingen, of Mill City, was serving a sentence for first-degree theft, two counts of second-degree burglary, and two counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, all of which occurred in Linn County. Officials said his earliest release date was Dec. 10, 2017. The escape is the first in the prison's history, although a DRCI inmate walked away from a work crew in Bend a year ago, and was caught in Portland three days later. Anyone with information regarding Swearingen's whereabouts is asked to call Oregon State Police at 1-800-452-7888. The prison, located four miles east of Madras, off Ashwood Road, has a 774-bed minimum-security facility, which opened in September 2007, and a 1,228-bed medium-security facility, which has yet to open.