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Escaped inmates arrested in northern Illinois after kitchen worker aids in Wisconsin jailbreak

The men showed up to a homeless shelter Friday morning, “shivering, frozen, wearing prison-issue sweats and thermal shirts,” an organizer of the shelter said.

Two Wisconsin prisoners were arrested Friday, April 17, 2020, after showing up at a homeless shelter in Rockford.
Two Wisconsin prisoners were arrested Friday, April 17, 2020, after showing up at a homeless shelter in Rockford.
Miss Carly’s/Facebook

Two inmates were arrested at a Rockford homeless shelter Friday after a kitchen worker helped them escape from prison the day before in southern Wisconsin.

The inmates allegedly climbed over two security fences at the Columbia Correctional Institution and took a cab out of the area, according to a statement from the Columbia County sheriff’s office.

James Robert Newman, 37, and Thomas Deering, 46, were arrested Friday in Rockford after a citizen recognized them from wanted photos.

The organizers of Miss Carly’s, a homeless shelter, said the men showed up to their door, “shivering, frozen, wearing prison-issue sweats and thermal shirts,” the organization said on Facebook. “They looked just like the kind of people we want to help....but they weren’t. I recognized them right away.”

A person at the shelter called Rockford police, who showed up and arrested them without incident.

“I have a huge heart for the unloveable and the lost, but I will always fight to keep our city safe,” Miss Carly’s said.

Deering was convicted in 2000 with sexual assault, burglary, kidnapping, according to online records. He also faced an escape charge in 2002 and a battery in prison charge in 2015. Newman was convicted in 2016 with kidnapping, escape and burglary.

“These two individuals were very dangerous suspects and we are thankful nobody was hurt during their escape and arrest,” the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies have arrested and charged Holly M. Zimdahl, 46, with aiding in their escape, the sheriff’s office said. Zimdahl worked as a civilian kitchen worker at the prison.

“Our focus is finding everyone that helped them escape from both inside and outside of the prison,” the sheriff’s office said. Authorities have still not located the vehicle that drove the men from Wisconsin.

The FBI, U.S. Marshal’s office and Department of Justice are among several organizations involved in the investigation, the sheriff’s office said.

Read more on crime, and track the city’s homicides.