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Former corrections officer pleads guilty to aiding escape from Bon Air juvenile detention center
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Former corrections officer pleads guilty to aiding escape from Bon Air juvenile detention center

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A former Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center officer was sentenced Monday to serve 20 days in jail after pleading guilty to aiding an inmate with whom she had developed an inappropriate relationship escape from the facility last summer with a second inmate.

In accordance with a plea agreement, Destiny Harris, 23, of Chesterfield County pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding in the escape of a prisoner — Rashad W. Williams, 18. He and Jabar A. Taylor, 20, became the first inmates in 20 years to successfully break out of the Bon Air center in Chesterfield.

The two prisoners overpowered a security employee by placing a handmade weapon to his body and wrapping a cord around his neck. They then forced him to the ground, took his keys and escaped by cutting a hole in a perimeter security fence with a pair of bolt cutters. A car with Pennsylvania plates that was idling in the road drove them from the scene, according to evidence.

Chesterfield Circuit Judge Frederick Rockwell III accepted Harris’ plea and, under the terms of the agreement, sentenced her to five years in prison with four years, 11 months and 10 days suspended. The plea deal and punishment were based on Harris’ “extensive cooperation” with authorities in the investigation of the escape and her lack of a prior criminal record, Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport told the court.

Harris was taken into custody but was to be released later on Monday for time served. She had been held for about three weeks after her arrest last year before being granted bond. A second charge of aiding a prisoner and providing a cellphone to an inmate were dropped during her preliminary hearing in February.

According to a summary of evidence, during Harris’ time as an employee at the Bon Air facility, she came to know and “develop an inappropriate relationship” with Williams, who was placed at Bon Air in 2019 for convictions of robbery and other offenses in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties and Fredericksburg.

Sometime prior to July 12 — the day before the escape — Harris became aware of Williams’ plan to break out. Davenport told the court that Harris “communicated with Gerald Thornton, the brother of Williams, about how and where Williams would be exiting the fence line of the facility and where he should be waiting in his car to pick Williams up.”

After the escape occurred, Virginia State Police identified Harris as a suspect and questioned her about her potential involvement. She immediately cooperated and was remorseful, “and she provided both [state police] and the Commonwealth with a great deal of assistance during the course of the investigation and prosecution of this case,” Davenport said.

The investigation also resulted in authorities charging Thornton, 33, of Philadelphia, with four counts of aiding with the escape of a prisoner. On June 10, he pleaded guilty to two of the counts and was sentenced to five years with three years and six months suspended on each charge.

Another Bon Air employee, Darren Briggs, 42, of Lawrenceville, pleaded guilty Feb. 19 to a misdemeanor charge — reduced from a felony — of aiding with the escape of a prisoner. He delivered a cellphone to Williams, which Briggs had not purchased. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail with 10 months suspended.

Williams, who authorities said was the mastermind of the escape, pleaded guilty Feb. 2 to 10 felonies for his role. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 4.

His partner in the escape, Jabar A. Taylor, pleaded guilty April 1 to escaping by force from a juvenile correctional facility, assault and battery of a corrections officer, and possession of a cellphone while incarcerated. In accordance with a plea agreement, Rockwell sentenced Taylor to 15 years in prison with eight years and six months suspended, giving him 6½ years to serve.

At the time of the July 13 escape, Taylor was serving a 50-year sentence for fatally stabbing two men and seriously wounding a third during an altercation that Taylor’s older brother started outside the Cook Out restaurant in the Greenbrier Shopping Center in Fredericksburg. He was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding and criminal solicitation.

Taylor, who was 15 at the time, was committed to the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center until his 21st birthday, at which time he was to be transferred to an adult prison. He turned 21 on Aug. 25.

Investigators learned that Williams had been in possession of a cellphone since June 2020, which he used numerous times to communicate with people outside the center. The communications resulted in someone delivering bolt cutters to the facility and helped coordinate plans regarding the vehicle that helped Williams and Taylor escape.

After an extensive manhunt, Williams and Taylor were captured July 25 at a hotel in Battle Creek, Mich., about 120 miles west of Detroit. The U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force had pursued leads in several states that showed Williams and Taylor were traveling together and had initially fled to Pennsylvania.

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