ST. LOUIS – Federal agents scouring for a second day for two jail escapees — one a suspect in a possibly multimillion-dollar summer heist — expressed confidence Tuesday the fugitives still were hiding out around St. Louis, some 60 miles from the lockup that couldn't hold them.
John Wesley Jones, 36, and Corey Durand Cross, 31, are both from St. Louis. But Robert O'Connor, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, declined to detail why he believed they still were in the area, a day after they bolted from the Lincoln County Jail after making their way onto the lockup's roof and down a 30-foot wall.
Investigators suspect the two men got to St. Louis using a truck stolen from a gas station 7 miles from the jail and found abandoned Monday along eastbound Interstate 70 near the city, O'Connor said. Bloodhounds led searchers from the truck to a home in nearby Pine Lawn, but the fugitives were nowhere to be found.
"With the information we have, we believe they're still likely in the St. Louis metropolitan area. I can't get into why we think that," O'Connor said Tuesday during the manhunt that included help from the FBI and St. Louis police.
Authorities have publicly warned that the escapees could be armed and dangerous, given the men's backgrounds. At the time of their jailbreak, both were being held on federal charges in separate weapons-related cases. Cross also was awaiting a trial scheduled next month on felony counts of illegally having an SKS assault-style rifle during suspected drug-trafficking and possessing heroin with plans to deal it.
Jones and Cross also each had been ordered jailed without bond pending trial, at the behest of federal prosecutors who claimed in court papers that both men were serious flight risks and threats to the community if allowed out on bail.
The FBI has named Jones as a suspect, though federal prosecutors haven't charged him yet, in a well-orchestrated, daylight holdup in August of an ATM Solutions site in St. Louis. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Louis said this week it's unclear why no one has been charged directly in the heist.
Four armed bandits clad from head to toe in black overpowered two of the company's workers, subdued them with duct tape and locked them in a vault before using an armored company van to haul away containers filled with loot, authorities said. No one was injured, and the other three suspected bandits have not been identified publicly.
The armored vehicle was found a short time later, and it is believed the bandits made off with a huge amount of money, possibly millions of dollars. Authorities have not publicly said how much money was stolen, though a federal indictment that accuses two St. Louis women of plotting to stash some of the loot indicates the U.S. government hoped to seize $612,980 in cash in that case.
The federal weapons count against Jones accuses him of being a felon who illegally possessed a semiautomatic pistol that authorities found a day after the holdup in a car the robbers may have used. Jones has pleaded not guilty to that felony and was scheduled to stand trial on that Dec. 6.
Federal prosecutors said in a court filing last month that they anticipate filing additional charges against Jones, though they did not say whether they were related to the ATM Solutions holdup.
Jones' attorney, Joel Schwartz of St. Louis, suggested Monday that his client didn't do himself any favors by breaking out of jail, saying his case on the gun charge appeared to be moving in a positive direction, and "this will complicate matters, to say the least."
"I'm frankly shocked. This takes me by complete surprise, and it's disappointing to hear," Schwartz said.