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Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:44

Swain jailer, murder suspect captured in California

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A jailer and the murder suspect she allegedly freed from the Swain County Detention Center a month ago were apprehended in Vallejo, Calif., on Sunday (April 19).

The jailer, Anita Vestal, 32, was unharmed, much to the relief of her parents and law enforcement who thought her life was in danger from the murder suspect, Jeffery Miles, 27.

Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran had no comment on the capture.

Vestal’s father, Ronnie Blythe of Whittier, told The Smoky Mountain News a few weeks ago that he was unconvinced that his daughter willingly let Miles out of jail. Blythe said she might have been enticed or coerced to let him out.

Vestal’s parents released a statement following the capture of their daughter and Miles: “We are thankful that Anita has been found and is safe. We would like to thank those in the community who have offered us support through their prayers and kind words. We do not have any further information about the events which have transpired throughout this ordeal and therefore we cannot comment further on this situation.”

Miles is one of six people charged with killing David Scott Wiggins, 33, and Michael Heath Compton, 34, who were shot to death in their Bryson City home in August.

Vallejo Police Lt. Abel Tenorio said his department received information from Sheriff Cochran a couple of weeks ago that Vestal and Miles may be in the area.

Vallejo officers determined that the pair might have been at a hotel in the area on Sunday and set up surveillance. When Miles exited the hotel room SWAT team members approached him in unmarked vehicles and apprehended him after a short foot pursuit, Tenorio said.

Vestal was then apprehended in the hotel room, Tenorio said, adding that the pair was unarmed.

On Monday they were being held in the Solano County Jail, said Tenorio. It could take several days before they are extradited to Swain County to face the escape charges, Tenorio said.

Video surveillance of the jail shows that Miles unlocked his cell door and then unlocked an outside fence. He then hid in Vestal’s vehicle in the parking lot.

Vestal and Miles drove to her Bryson City apartment where they switched vehicles and then went on the lam for a month.

Sheriff Cochran and jail administrators have been criticized by former jailer, Steven Osborne, who was fired after the escape. Osborne told The Smoky Mountain News it was wrong Cochran fired him over the incident and said he and other jail employees had warned the sheriff and jail administrators several times that Vestal and Miles were getting too close personally. Osborne said they ignored the warnings.

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