Fugitive convict accused in attack is captured

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 10, 2013 at 12:19 am •  Published: September 10, 2013
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Tolliver, unarmed, was escorting Pearson and two other jail inmates to court on the seventh floor of the courthouse and was removing handcuffs when he was attacked with a comb that had been turned into a sharp weapon, the sheriff said.

"The part of the comb that he was stabbed with broke. It did not inflict any life-threatening injuries," Napoleon said.

He said there was nothing unusual about the courthouse escort procedure, adding, "It occurs thousands of times a year."

Pearson was recently convicted of carjacking and was facing many years in prison. He claimed he was unwittingly given a stolen car as a way to settle a debt, but Judge Dana Hathaway disagreed and found him guilty.

Defense attorney James Howarth said Pearson's mental health was an issue. He spent months at a state psychiatric center before being found competent to face trial. One expert accused him of malingering.

Howarth, however, said Pearson reported a history of hallucinations, and he wonders if mental health played a role in the escape.

"In his right mind, he would not have done this," Howarth told The Associated Press outside the courthouse. "In the year I have known him, he has never showed the slightest symptom of being dangerous. Something is very wrong. ... It may have been a final act of desperation if you don't want to go to prison."

Patricia Banford, whose van was stolen immediately after the escape, said the suspect threatened her.

"He snatched the door open and said, 'Get out or I'll kill you!'" she told TV station WDIV.

The sheriff, who oversees security at the courthouse, said he would prefer to have more than one deputy escorting inmates but the county can't afford it. Tolliver, 63, joined the sheriff's department after retiring as a Detroit police officer.

"It's a dangerous job," Napoleon said. "We're streamlined as much as we can."

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Associated Press writers Jeff Karoub, David Runk and Corey Williams contributed to this report.