BONIFAY - K-9 units from Washington County's Northwest Florida Reception Center (NWFRC), Holmes Correctional Institute, and Jackson Correctional Institute apprehended two escaped inmates Wednesday.
The units were among those responding to assist the Holmes County Sheriff's Office after two men escaped from Holmes County Jail custody around 12:40 a.m., but the K-9 teams had both recovered by 9 a.m.
The escapees, Jeffery Morrill, 32, of Bonifay, and David Challender, 28, of Vernon, were both facing lengthy sentences.
Morrill was recently sentenced to 30 years in the Florida Department of Corrections, and Challender, a state fugitive from Gwinnett Co., Ga., was also being housed for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office while awaiting trial for murder, home invasion/robbery with a weapon, burglary of a dwelling, and burglary with intent to commit theft.
A track was established, and Morrill was located a mile from the jail and transported back to the jail. K-9 teams then discovered two tracks, which separated into two directions.
NWFRC's K-9 team followed a track and arrived at the Holmes County Recycling center. A search of the surrounding buildings revealed Challender, hiding inside a trailer filled with tires. He was apprehended and transferred back the jail.
"We are relieved and pleased that these fugitives were captured so quickly," said Holmes County Sheriff Tim Brown. "It was good work by area law enforcement."
In addition to local K-9 Units, the Holmes County Sheriff's Office was assisted in the search by the Bonifay Police Department, Jackson County Air Support, the U.S. Marshal's Office, Bay County Sheriff's Office, and the Dale Co., Ala. helicopter unit.
Earlier in the week on July 22, The Holmes Correctional Institution K-9 team also tracked down a suspect wanted for felony warrants for burglary and dealing in stolen property. The suspect was initially confronted by law enforcement and fled into a wooded area. When the team arrived at the scene, a track was immediately established and continued for approximately 45 minutes with a distance of 200 yards. The suspect was located behind a store in a wooded residential area.
The Department of Corrections has 38 K-9 programs statewide which are used to support other law enforcement agencies with felon apprehension, searching for missing persons, and locating and providing aid to persons in distress. In Fiscal Year 2013-2014, the Department’s K-9 tracking teams were deployed 710 times.