Bond set at $800k for man who escaped from Berkeley jail

Sanders in bond court in Berkeley County.
Sanders in bond court in Berkeley County.
James Sanders appears in court Friday. (Source: WMBF News)
James Sanders appears in court Friday. (Source: WMBF News)
James Sanders was captured Thursday in Myrtle Beach. (Source: Myrtle Beach Police)
James Sanders was captured Thursday in Myrtle Beach. (Source: Myrtle Beach Police)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WCSC) - Bond was set at $800,000 for a man who was captured Thursday night after 35 days on the run following his escape from the Hill-Finklea Detention Center in Berkeley County back in January.

Myrtle Beach police arrested 39-year-old James Sanders around 11:30 p.m. Thursday after he allegedly stole a woman's wallet at Broadway at the Beach, a large shopping and entertainment center in Myrtle Beach. Sanders was transported back the Berkeley County Detention Center.

On Friday night, a judge set Sanders' bond for $800,000. Also present at the hearing was Sanders' ex-girlfriend who said that she believes her life will be in danger if Sanders manages to escape again.

"I believe and I know in my heart that he will kill me," the woman said. "He wants me dead. He has told me if he cannot have me, no one will."

The woman said she fears for her life and her kids lives as well.

"He is what he is. He is insane. He is a criminal," the woman said. "He's a danger to everyone. I hope he stays in [jail]. I hope he gets life."

According to Myrtle Beach police Cpt. David Knipes, Sanders was partying and dancing with several women on Thursday at a Broadway at the Beach nightclub. One of the women's wallet fell out of her pocket and Sanders picked it up and ran. Broadway at the Beach security detained Sanders until Myrtle Beach police arrived. Sanders was found with the wallet hanging partially out of his back pocket.

Myrtle Beach police charged Sanders with petit or simple larceny and giving a false name / resisting arrest. In court Friday, Sanders pleaded no contest on the larceny charge and was sentenced to 30 days. He pleaded guilty to the providing false information charge and was sentenced to 30 days.

Both sentences were suspended because a Berkeley County sheriff's deputy took Sanders into custody to transport him back to Berkeley County.

"We're extremely pleased that James Sanders is in custody and will be brought back to the Hill-Finklea Detention center where he escaped from on the 26th of January," said Berkeley County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dan Moon. "It's been a long month and a half almost."

Sanders walked out of the Berkeley County Detention Center on Jan. 26 and authorities have been trying to hunt him down ever since. Sanders eluded investigators on multiple occasions over the last month and a half.

Most recently, Deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Conroy says his task force had been tracking him in the Myrtle Beach area. Conroy called Sanders the "ultimate con artist."

Sanders had been staying in the intensive care unit waiting room at a Myrtle Beach hospital for at least a week before investigators were able to piece things together.

Sanders was using an alias while he was at the hospital. Conroy says Sanders was going by the name "Kevin." Hospital security workers say Sanders somehow got the name of a patient in a coma and told hospital officials that he was a family member of the patient.

According to Conroy, Sanders was able to con the hospital into believing his story, which allowed him to eat, shower and sleep in the hospital. Sanders' lie fell apart when the person in the coma started to wake up and an out-of-town family member came to visit.

U.S. marshals say Sanders was escorted out of the hospital when workers discovered that "Kevin" was not a family member. Later, hospital workers found a stash of clothes, which helped U.S. marshals make the connection between Sanders and "Kevin."

Hospital security workers notified U.S. Marshals of the incident on Feb. 23, just as Berkeley County investigators received information tying Sanders to the Myrtle Beach area. Inmates at the Berkeley County Detention Center told authorities that Sanders bragged about a job he had lined up in Myrtle Beach.

On Monday, U.S. marshals went to Myrtle Beach and checked out hospital and homeless hideout spots and shelters. A witness spotted Sanders Wednesday at the Helping Hands Shelter having breakfast. Marshals rushed over to the shelter, but Sanders was gone and he didn't show back up for lunch.

Marshals were still searching for Sanders, but with no luck, until he was arrested Thursday night on new charges. Sanders was being held originally on criminal domestic violence charges when he escaped.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office released its findings from an internal investigation that found detention workers had made mistakes and made the escape easy for Sanders. The investigative records were released along with video showing Sanders walk out of the detention facility.

According to records, Sgt. Patricia Collins and Lt. Tony Riley failed to read Sanders' entire file before clearing him for release. Authorities report that victim's advocates immediately fought the action and asked the officers to recheck Sanders' paperwork.

Investigation papers state that Collins said, "We have the discharge paper, we can't keep him here forever, it is what it is." The investigation also showed that Pfc. Tyler McWethy failed to secure Sanders' handcuffs.

Once Sanders was out of the handcuffs, he trailed behind jail worker Sgt. Rosemary Sanders who was going to her vehicle through the facility's employee parking door, authorities say. When the sergeant questioned Sanders on a detention center arm band he was still wearing, Sanders took it off, handed it to her and kept on walking.

In the aftermath, the four workers at the detention center faced consequences.

The day after the escape, law enforcement moved their search to downtown Charleston after Sanders hitched a ride to the Medical University of South Carolina. An unsuspecting Moncks Corner woman picked up Sanders on the side of the road after Sanders gave the woman a false name and told her that his wife was in labor at the hospital.

Sanders was dropped off not too far off from MUSC. According to MUSC officials, a review of the surveillance videotapes confirmed that Sanders was present in two waiting areas on Feb. 3 and 4. Hospital officials say Sanders was at the hospital visiting an acquaintance.

He was also spotted around the same time in the Sangaree Parkway area. Witnesses reported seeing Sanders in two locations, near Farmington Road and near Sangaree Parkway. Sanders eluded authorities in yet another manhunt.

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