Escaped mental patient, murder suspect caught in Tennessee

cwinston@thestate.comJanuary 3, 2014 

  • Authorities apprehend accused killer who escaped mental health facility (:34)

    WIS - Columbia

A 39-year-old man who escaped custody at a Columbia mental institution was arrested in Tennessee on Friday morning.

Jason Mark Carter was apprehended without incident by the Tennessee Highway Patrol at a motel west of Nashville.

He is suspected of stealing a white van from the state hospital and later purchasing a Chevrolet Lumina. The THP issued a BOLO for the vehicle at 6:30 a.m. Friday after South Carolina authorities pinged Carter’s cellphone and discoverd he may be traveling west on Interstate 40.

Just 30 minutes later, a Tennessee trooper saw the Lumina at the Fairview Inn on Exit 182. The trooper found that Carter had checked into the hotel at 4:30 a.m. The THP’s Special Operations Unit arrived and took Carter into custody at about 9:15 a.m.

Carter faces charges of larceny and being a fugitive from justice in the Williamson County Jail, where awaits extradition. He has a court date scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 16 in General Sessions Court in Williamson County.

Carter was a patient at the G. Werber Bryan Psychiatric Hospital off Farrow Road since he was found incompetent to stand trial in the killing of his mother and stepfather until he escaped on Thursday. At the hospital, he was a part of a patient work program, said Mark Binkley, deputy director of administration for the S.C. Department of Mental Health.

An agency directive said the program allows patients to receive pay for jobs following special training and approval of treatment team. The directive also says that all patients in the program are assigned a supervisor. When Carter escaped on Thursday, he was in a supply building while working his job, Binkley said.

Tracy LaPointe, DMH spokeswoman, said the patients rarely receive more than minimum wage for the work.

“At this point, we don’t know how he got a cell phone, cash and a car - that will be part of the investigation,” LaPointe said.

Carter was charged with two counts of murder in the March 2006 deaths of 52-year-old Debra Perkins and 57-year-old Kevin Perkins. Authorities said the couple was found wrapped in plastic in the basement of their home near Lake Hartwell in Seneca.

Carter was found competent to stand trial in January 2009, but a judge in October 2009 found him not guilty by reason of insanity and committed him to a state mental hospital.

One concern raised since Thursday has been the delay between his disappearance and public notification. Officials say it was before noon that Carter was discovered not in the supply building. According to a DMH directive, 30 minutes must pass between a patient’s disappearance and further notification. But a BOLO alert was not issued until 1:20 p.m.

The directive also says that the DMH communications office “may release information if considered necessary in the interest of public or patient safety.” In this case, the public was alerted by the Oconee County Sheriff’s Department after 3 p.m. The DMH communications office did not provide information to the public or media until requested.

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