Deputies bust elaborate prison escape plan

SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Sumter County deputies thwarted an elaborate escape plan they say was hatched by a man serving 30 years in prison. The incarcerated man offered his son $300 to help him escape, according to an arrest report.

A tip, Sheriff Anthony Dennis said, brought the whole plan to a screeching halt. On Wednesday, members of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office received information about a possible escape attempt of an inmate at the McCormick Correctional Institution.

Corrections investigators received a tip that 44-year-old inmate Robert Darnell of Liberty, SC, who is in prison on First Degree Burglary charges, had planned to escape while at a doctor's appointment in Sumter County.

As Robert Darnell was preparing to leave the institution, corrections officers searched the inmate and found that he had a handcuff key hidden under a bandage. Corrections officers received further information that Darnell had family members waiting for him at a medical center in Santee.

Armed with a description about a possible getaway vehicle, Sumter County deputies and a member of the Department of Corrections went to the Santee Medical Park. They discovered a vehicle parked near the road matching the description given and made contact with the occupants in the vehicle.

Deputies discovered three people in the car, including Darnell's 18-year-old son, Randall, 18-year-old Anthony Vickous and a 16-year-old female. "We believe it was more than a son wanted to help and see his father and help his father escape," said Sheriff Dennis.

A search of the vehicle revealed several items that could be used to aid in an escape from prison, deputies said. Deputies confiscated cell phones, credit cards, hacksaw blades, and keys. "There was also a handcuff key here too that was recovered," said Sheriff Dennis. "Also a chance of clothing that would have fitted the inmate that was to be transported here in Sumter."

According to an incident report, Darnell and Vickous admitted to buying the tools and other contraband over a four week period and then traveling over four hours from Pickens County to Santee to give Robert Darnell the items or to break into the corrections vehicle the inmate was transported in to hide the items.

During questioning, Randall Darnell told deputies the reason he agreed to help Robert escape from prison is because his father offered him $300 so he could buy a car, the report states.

Darnell and Vickous were arrested and transported to Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center. The juvenile was released to a parent.

Robert Darnell was admitted to the McCormick Correctional Institution in 2002 and was scheduled to be released in June of 2028. There is no word on if he will face additional charges.

The incident is still under investigation.

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