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Forum staff reports, Published December 12 2012

Cass County deputy cleared in inmate escape

FARGO – A Cass County sheriff’s deputy who was escorting a jail inmate to a transport van when he escaped Oct. 12 has been cleared of wrongdoing after an internal probe.

The investigation, conducted by the Office of Professional Standards and reviewed by command staff, found that Deputy Pete Wold had no misconduct and didn’t violate any policies or procedures, said Sgt. Tara Morris, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.

Wold was preparing to put 25-year-old Francisco Ayala Jr. into the van outside the Cass County Courthouse when Ayala ran. Ayala was free for less than an hour before authorities found him hiding in an apartment house and took him into custody without incident.

Morris said the escape increased awareness and identified training needs, as well as communication issues with radios that have already been remedied with grant funding.

She said the sheriff’s office is “very eager” to start using the more secure inmate transfer garage in the new $14.7 million courthouse addition.

Ayala pleaded guilty last week to a felony escape charge and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He also has been indicted on drug charges in federal court, the prosecutor said.

The investigation found that Ayala had fashioned a makeshift key to undo his handcuffs and leg restraints.