'America's Most Wanted' to feature escaped Berkeley Co. inmate

Published: Feb. 29, 2012 at 7:12 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2012 at 9:15 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An escaped inmate who has managed to elude authorities since January is set to be featured on the television program "America's Most Wanted."

A crew from the show was in town talking with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Marshals about James Sanders, who has been on the run since Jan. 26 after escaping from the Hill Finklea Detention Center. The episode is schedule to air March 10.

Officials with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office released a statement saying they are "very pleased" that the show will be devoting a segment to the search for James Sanders.

"This nation-wide coverage can only help us in our effort to re-capture this individual," said Dan Moon for the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office.

The day after the escape, law enforcement moved their search to downtown after a report that Sanders had hitched a ride to the Medical University of South Carolina.

An unsuspecting Moncks Corner woman had indeed picked up Sanders on the side of the road and driven him to MUSC after Sanders gave the woman a false name and told her that his wife was in labor at the hospital.

While driving Sanders to the hospital, the driver received a call from her friend telling her of a lockdown in Moncks Corner due to an escaped inmate. The woman said that Sanders heard the conversation and began to tell her that he was not the wanted man.

"I swear to God ma'am, I'm not that person!" Sanders told the woman. "When the news comes on tonight and they show you the picture, it's not going to be me. I'm not that person!"

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.

MUSC officials say the surveillance videos show Sanders interacting with his acquaintance and no one else at the hospital.

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. Investigators with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office were involved in the search with a helicopter assisting.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office did release 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.

If you have any information on Sanders' whereabouts you are asked to call police or Crime Stoppers at 554-1111.

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.