Jail director: Escaped inmate went unnoticed for 30 hours

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
A detention area in the rear of the Lake Region Correctional Facility near where inmate Seth Suko escaped under fencing last Thursday. Suko, a registered sex offender, was on the loose for at least 30 hours before jail staff noticed that he was missing.

The Journal reported last Friday on the escape of Seth Suko, a registered sex offender with a history of running from law enforcement, from the Lake Region Correctional Facility.

LEC director Rob Johnson issued a press release that states that Suko was missing for 30 hours before LEC staffed noticed.

From the release:

“The Lake Region Law Enforcement Center (LEC) has concluded its administrative investigation into the escape of Seth Suko from the Lake Region Correctional Facility (LRCF).

On July 5, 2017 at approximately 1:46 p.m., a correctional officer was bringing a group of inmates back into the facility from the outdoor recreation area. While moving toward the door to go back into the facility, Mr. Suko jumped over a fence that divides the rec yard from a portion that is not used on the south side of the building where he was out of sight of staff.

He was able to crawl under a portion of the fence in this area and make his escape.”

It was previously reported that Suko climbed over the fence and maneuvered around the razor wire atop it.

“Correctional staff did not become aware that Mr. Suko was missing until July 6, 2017 at approximately 7:30 p.m. This was nearly 30 hours after the time that Mr. Suko escaped. During our administrative investigation it was found that numerous policies were not followed, and that procedures that had been put in place were not enforced.

At approximately 1:15 a.m. on July 7, 2017, Mr. Suko was apprehended by the Devils Lake Police Department.

At our request the North Dakota Bureau of Investigation (BCI) conducted an investigation and concluded that the escape was due to the lack of following policies and procedures, as  well as insufficient training. No staff was found to have colluded with Mr. Suko, or to have assisted in the escape.”

In March 2015, correctional officer Rachel Marie Chepulis assisted inmate Wesley E. Brown, III in a successful escape attempt. She was sentenced to over three years in prison after the pair was caught in Oregon three weeks after the escape.

“In response to this incident, we will be conducting an internal audit of facility practices, working to bring in experienced correctional professionals to serve as mentors to our inexperienced staff, and to seek or develop additional training for our correctional staff.

Subsequent to this incident Captain Duane Armstrong tendered his resignation effective immediately.

We would like to thank him for his years of service, not only at the LEC but his many years as a North Dakota Highway Patrol Officer and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

This is a situation that we never want to report and there are numerous things that led to this unfortunate situation. We have and will continue to work hard to ensure the safety and security of the Lake Region communities that we serve.”

Suko remains in custody pending his next court date scheduled for July 13.