Swain jail keys found in get-away truck

The Swain County Sheriff’s Department got a welcome piece of news recently when it learned the escape of an inmate won’t cost as much as previously thought.

Jailer Anita Vestal and accused murder suspect Jeffrey Miles were picked up in Vallejo, Calif., April 20, nearly a month after Vestal allegedly helped Miles escape. The county won’t have to pay the cost of driving across the country to retrieve the inmates, which wasn’t clear previously. Instead, the N.C. Department of Corrections is in charge of handling the pickup, said Swain County Chief Deputy Jason Gardner.

Gardner said that Vestal and Miles “are in the process of getting picked up,” but he has been provided with little information about when the pair will arrive.

“They won’t tell us anything,” Gardner said. “They’ll call us when they’re an hour out.”

Gardner said Vestal and Miles will return to the Swain County jail “very temporarily” for processing but will be held elsewhere.

 

Replacing locks unnecessary

Two jail keys allegedly used in the escape were recovered by Vestal’s father, Ronnie Blythe, when he retrieved his pickup truck that Vestal and Miles had used to flee to California, said Gardner. Blythe turned the keys over to the Swain County Sheriff’s Office. If the keys had not been located, the locks at the jail would have had to be replaced at a cost of nearly $40,000.

Vallejo police didn’t find the keys when they conducted a search of the vehicle. Gardner suggested that they may have simply skipped over it.

“These keys that fit the jail here look more like a regular key,” Gardner said. “They may have saw it, and just didn’t realize what it was.”

Swain County commissioners have already struggled to pay for unforeseen costs at the county’s new $10 million jail facility. Most recently, commissioners granted a request from Cochran in April for an additional $139,000 to cover the cost of unemployment insurance, supplies and maintenance.

Charges against Vestal, 32, include: conveying messages with convicts or prisoners, providing drugs to an inmate, felony conspiracy, and felony harboring escapee. Felony conspiracy and misdemeanor escape from jail will be added to Miles’ murder charges.

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