One of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies fired after an inmate escape last month had two previous suspensions, and the other deputy a commendation for his good work in transporting inmates, according to personnel records obtained by The Times.
Deputies Jack Dodd and Larry Henslee were assigned to an inmate transport detail on July 16, when around 12:40 p.m., James Edward Cantrell, 46, escaped custody during transfer from the courthouse to a transport vehicle. Cantrell was among a group of inmates being escorted back to the Hall County Jail after court proceedings.
After the bus departed, Cantrell located a nearby work truck with the keys left inside and fled, evading custody for six days before being captured July 22 at a motel in Tucker by agents of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force.
According to Henslee’s personnel records, he was employed with the office since June 22, 1998, and was twice suspended without pay for policy violations.
On Nov. 10, 2003, he was suspended without pay for three days, and on July 12, 2004, he was suspended without pay for one day.
An accompanying memorandum with the 2004 incident, signed by then-Sheriff Steve Cronic, stated that Henslee, in addition to the suspension, was required to attend anger management classes for violating rules and regulations governing attitude, behavior and insubordination.
Dodd’s record didn’t include any suspensions, only a letter of appreciation, also signed by Cronic, in July 2008 for “outstanding job performance during the last few weeks, dealing with the transport of board-in and court inmates.”
Dodd began his employment with the office in February 2008.
Henslee’s wife was contacted by The Times and said he would decline to comment.
Efforts by The Times to reach Dodd were unsuccessful.
According to the letter of termination, signed by Sheriff Gerald Couch, the deputies’ “negligence and inattention” resulted in Cantrell’s being able to walk away and hide in a breezeway.
Additionally, the letter says, upon their return to the jail, the deputies failed to “properly account for all the inmates ... which greatly increased the time that inmate Cantrell was gone before it was discovered that he had escaped.”
The letter further says that the deputies did not immediately notify supervisors of the incident, breaching protocol and hindering Cantrell’s eventual recapture. There was about an hour-and-30-minute delay in discovering Cantrell’s escape, officials said.
Neither Dodd nor Henslee have appealed their July 23 terminations, according to the sheriff’s office.
Couch said at the time of the terminations that the office will be reviewing policies and conducting more training to prevent future incidents.
Cantrell was serving time for felony battery and has now been charged with felony escape, and has a committal hearing Friday in Hall Magistrate Court.
He is not eligible for bond and is being held in the Hall County Jail.