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Dickinson Press, Published June 28 2009

Stark County officials left with Alabama fugitives’ tab

DICKINSON, N.D. – Officials are wondering how to cover the bills four Alabama fugitives are running up for Stark County.

The cost for security for two of the fugitives while they were hospitalized after the June 6 shootout is already well over $26,000.

And this may just be the beginning.

“Our general fund is going to take a hit, there’s not doubt about it,” said Duane “Bucky” Wolf, Stark County commissioner.

Joshua Southwick, 26, and Ashton Mink, 22, were apprehended following the shootout with North Dakota law enforcement earlier this month.

That came nearly two weeks after they escaped from the Perry County Detention Center in Uniontown, Ala.

Also taken into custody were two women who authorities said helped the men escape: Angela Diana Mink, 25, and Jacquelin Rae Kennamer Mink, 25, Mink’s sister and wife, respectively.

Ashton Mink and Jacquelin Mink were hospitalized after the shootout, but were released this past week and taken to the Southwest Multi-County Correction Center.

All four are charged with conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Additionally, Tom Henning, Stark County state’s attorney, said he’s looking at increasing the severity of the felony charges.

The four must remain in Stark County for now to face those charges, he said.

It cost the county $30 per hour, per fugitive to provide around-the-clock supervision at the hospitals for the fugitives, Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said.

It costs the county about $60 a day per inmate at the correction center, Wolf said.

However, because of “safety concerns,” Ashton Mink has security staff with him 24 hours a day, which costs up to $460 a day, said Ken Rooks, operations director at the correction center.

It’s unclear how the fugitives’ medical expenses will be covered, but Wolf said the county may have to pay those, too.

The county is exploring options for covering the bills, including getting Dickinson involved, Wolf said.

Officials may also look into whether the prison they escaped from can help with expenses, Wolf said.

“Being that it’s a private facility that they were housed in, maybe there’s some liability there,” Wolf said.

But the county might just have to bite the bullet and open its pocketbook, which could impact county projects, he said.

“We have no other choice if that becomes the reality that we’re stuck with those bills,” Wolf said. “It’s going to be tough going for us, but we have to make it work.”

The Dickinson Press and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.