NICI escapees’ flight ends near Walla Walla

Two escapees from North Idaho Correctional Institution are back behind bars and facing new felony charges after a short-lived escape Saturday morning from the Idaho Department of Correction’s (IDOC) facility at Cottonwood.

Ridge S. Dains, 21, of Boise, and Caleb J. Thomas, 20, of Caldwell, were arrested Monday morning, Jan. 20, in a stolen vehicle near Walla Walla, Wash. Extradition for the pair is pending to Idaho County where they potentially face charges of escape and grand theft.

In a press release, IDOC stated it is conducting a thorough review of the incident. In response to Free Press inquiries, no comment was provided on how the pair escaped NICI, or how they traversed more than 10 miles south to Canyon Road where they are suspected in stealing a vehicle to escape the area.

At the time of the escape, Dains and Thomas were on retained jurisdiction at NICI. Thomas was incarcerated on charges of grand theft, arson and destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, and solicitation to commit perjury, which were incurred in Payette and Canyon counties from 2011 to 2013. Dains was incarcerated on a 2013 Canyon County burglary conviction. Both were to complete their riders this fall.

On Saturday, Jan. 18, according to the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office (ICSO), the pair was reported as escaped at 12:05 a.m. They are alleged to have fled the area in Allen Lusby’s 1992 Toyota Corolla – unlocked but not containing the keys — stolen from a Canyon Road residence north of Grangeville, along with firearms and ammunition, belonging to Wes Lester, that were stored on the property. ICSO reported clothing found at the scene matched that worn by the escaped inmates.

Along with ICSO, the IDOC’s Correctional Emergency Response Team was activated, along with assistance from the Cottonwood Police Department and Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Footprints were found in the snow leading away from the prison. During that morning’s search, ICSO Deputy Randy Long, 43, was injured when at 2:50 a.m. his 2012 Dodge Charger patrol vehicle went off Cottonwood Butte Road and into a tree. Long was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood where he was held overnight for observation and released Sunday.

The following Monday, Jan. 20, 7:49 a.m., the pair was spotted in a vehicle with Idaho plates at the Zip-Zone Market in Walla Walla by a citizen who had seen notice about the escapees on Facebook, according to a Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office (WWCSO) press release. Information provided by the citizen found the Toyota Corolla was reported stolen out of Idaho and was related to the Jan. 18 escape. Officers were dispatched to the area; however, the suspects had since left the area. The pair was shortly after spotted in the Lowden area driving by WWCSO deputy who, assisted by additional county deputies and the Washington State Patrol, pursued the suspects as they briefly attempted to evade; however, they drove down a dead-end street.

Dains, the driver, and Thomas were taken into custody without incident. Officers recovered a loaded .45-caliber pistol under the passenger seat, ownership of which is undetermined, and in the trunk was the SKS assault rifle reported stolen in Idaho County.

The last escape from NICI was in August of 2009 when Emmanuel O. Jones went over the security fence, stole a vehicle from a nearby residence of a prison employee and fled to Nampa where he was taken into custody after a high-speed pursuit. As a result of the escape, Jones earned an additional three years in prison to be served with his original 12- to 25-year sentence.

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