COLUMBIA — When escaped con Jimmy Causey was cornered in an Austin, Texas, motel early Friday, he'd made it 1,225 miles from his Dorchester County cell.
He was also only 225 miles from Mexico. With him was a semi-automatic pistol, a pump shotgun, four cellphones and nearly $48,000 in cash inside a Motel 6.
Beyond that, South Carolina officials have not revealed how the escape of an inmate at a maximum-security prison went unnoticed for 18 hours, or how a convicted kidnapper serving a life sentence was able to travel so quickly from rural Ridgeville across at least five states.
What prison officials have confirmed is that Causey escaped by using both a makeshift dummy in his bed to fool officers and wire cutters likely dropped over the fence by a drone. And late Friday, prison officials confirmed one corrections officer has been fired in connection with Causey's escape, but they declined to provide details.
While S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling declined to address some of the escape details during a press conference Friday morning, he blamed part of the problem on the ease at which inmates can communicate with the outside world.
"As long as they have access to cellphones, this is just going to keep on happening and happening and happening," he said.
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel again called on the federal government to allow prisons to jam cellphone signals.
"It is senseless to me that the federal government continues to prohibit state agencies and state corrections officials from blocking cellphones," Keel said.
"Unfortunately, as long as cellphones continue to be utilized by inmates in prisons we’re going to have things like this — we’re going to have very well-planned escapes, as this was, (that) are going to be able to continue," he said.
Stirling confirmed that Causey left Lieber about 8 p.m. July 4, using a makeshift dummy like he did during a prison break more than a decade ago. Officers realized he was gone 18 hours later, around 2 p.m. July 5.
Stirling would not say how correctional officers failed to keep track of Causey, who was being held with the general population in Lieber, sharing a cell with another man. There was one officer on each wing of Causey's dorm the entire time, Stirling said. The officer on Causey's wing was in charge of overseeing 116 inmates.
"We could always use more staffing, but sometimes the staff just has to follow the policy and procedure," he said. "And if that’s not done, that’s when we have failures like this."
Causey used a cellphone to coordinate delivery of a wire cutter, officials said, which Stirling believes was delivered by a drone that dropped it over prison fencing. Causey used the wire cutter to open holes in four fences to escape.
Keel said officials are not going to talk specifics what led them to Causey in Texas or how he traveled 1,225 miles from Ridgeville to Austin.
Keel said several people assisted Causey during his escape. He said law enforcement will continue to investigate them with plans to charge them as well.
Causey was apprehended at 3:05 a.m. Friday by the Texas Department of Public Safety, whose officers caught Causey in a Motel 6 room while he slept. A tip led Texas Rangers to the motel room, The Associated Press said.
State Corrections officials were offering up to $2,000 for information on Causey's whereabouts, with additional money coming from South Carolina Crimestoppers for Causey's apprehension.
This is Causey's second escape. In 2005, he and fellow inmate Johnny Brewer fled the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia. The two used toilet-paper heads made by other prisoners and put them in their beds to trick officers before stowing away in a trash dumpster carried off prison grounds.
After a three-day manhunt, the inmates were found about 100 miles away at a Ridgeland motel along Interstate 95.
Causey was serving a life sentence for the 2002 kidnapping and armed robbery of prominent Columbia defense attorney Jack Swerling, who twice served as Causey's lawyer. Swerling negotiated reduced sentences for Causey in the 1990s.
Causey, however, turned on Swerling and tied up the lawyer, his wife and daughter with duct tape, then held them at gunpoint at their Columbia home while Causey and another man ransacked the house looking for money.
During the subsequent kidnapping trial, attorneys said Causey was upset that he had to serve any time at all for those prior cases, blaming Swerling.
Swerling issued a statement Friday expressing relief that Causey had been captured.
"Nightmare over," Swerling posted on Facebook. "Thank you all for your support through calls and messages of concern. We've got great family and friends."