They Still Haven’t Found the Escaped Prisoner from Rhode Island

The all-out manhunt for James Walter Morales continues after his escape on New Year's Eve.

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Photo via Massachusetts State Police


Update Thursday, January 5: The manhunt moved to the Cambridge area Thursday after the suspect in an early morning bank robbery in Central Square appeared to match the description of James Morales, the fugitive who has been on the run since New Year’s Eve, when he escaped a Rhode Island detention center. Police captured him on Thursday afternoon in Somerville.

Earlier: Three days after he escaped a Rhode Island detention center and fled into Massachusetts, the manhunt for fugitive James Morales intensified on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old, who officials believe is dangerous and may be armed, has been on the run since New Year’s Eve, when he escaped unnoticed from the maximum security Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, just across the Massachusetts border.

Morales, a former Army reservist and former Cambridge resident and DPW employee, is wanted in connection to the November, 2015 gun heist at an armory in Worcester. He also faces unrelated charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a child.

Officials said Tuesday a notice had been sent out nationally alerting authorities about Morales’ escape. Massachusetts State Police today added him to the agency’s most wanted list. Authorities noted that Morales is injured, and may show up at a hospital seeking medical help. They advise anyone who spots him to call 911.

“We know that he’s a dangerous individual,” Jamie A. Hainsworth, the United States Marshal for the District of Rhode Island, said in an update this afternoon via news conference. He added, in case Morales was watching: “Turn yourself in.”

At the conference, the team of law enforcement officials overseeing the search for Morales would confirm little about the investigation, how Morales escaped, and whether and where he has been spotted. But there have been reports in media, which combined with statements from officials, appear to trace his steps from the barbed wire-encircled facility into Framingham.

He reportedly managed to flee the prison by scaling a basketball hoop and climbing over a barbed wire fence, according to the Telegram. He then made his way to Attleboro, ditched a bloodied prison uniform, stole a car from a Burger King parking lot, and took off deeper into Massachusetts, state police say. Police later found the car in Framingham, and a woman in Framingham says that Morales knocked on her door around 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Fox reports that Morales was seen walking through Framingham on surveillance video.

Still unresolved and under investigation are the circumstances of Morales’ escape. It reportedly took three hours for guards to notice the inmate was missing.

In Rhode Island, the mayor of Central Falls, James A. Diossa, said yesterday he is not pleased.

“It is extremely concerning that the safety and welfare of our city residents were placed in jeopardy due to this incident,” Diossa said in a statement. “As the host community for a detention center holding federal detainees, we expect a high level of safety and security for our residents. … we collectively communicated that this threat to the public safety is unacceptable.”

Two guards at the prison have been placed on paid leave, per the Globe.

The U.S. Marshals Service is again asking for the public’s help today. Anyone with information has been asked to contact them at 1-800-336-0102. He has a tattoo of an eagle on his neck, and in addition to his history in Cambridge, he has ties to Framingham and New York City.

This story has been updated.