Gaunt to serve 10 years for escape

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Inmate said he took jail's car to check on ill child

By Linda Ireland

A Ludlow man will serve 10 years for his escape from the LaRue County Detention Center.

A jury found George Richard Gaunt III guilty of second-degree escape, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and of being a persistent felony offender last week.

Gaunt was serving a three-year sentence at the LCDC on charges of third-degree burglary, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. According to Enquirer.com, Gaunt was known as “the chili burglar” after his first arrest. Gaunt was charged with breaking into a Gold Star Chili and taking cash in March 2009. Police said he was a former employee of the Crescent Springs fast-food restaurant and gained entry through a back door.

According to testimony at the trial, Gaunt attended a religious study at the jail about 7 p.m. Feb. 9. Afterwards, he walked out an unlocked door, got into the jail’s 1999 Crown Victoria, started it with keys that had been left in the ashtray and drove toward Cincinnati. He enjoyed about eight hours of freedom before stopping outside Florence. He was arrested by Kentucky State Troopers at a rest area off Interstate 71.

Theresa Hatcher, an employee of the jail, testified that the car keys were customarily “put in the ashtray” per Jailer Ralph “Mac” Trumbo’s instructions. Jail Consultant Joey Stanton, now chief administrative officer at the jail, confirmed that the keys had been left in the vehicle.

Gaunt testified that after he left the study, he called the mother of his child. He said he “flipped out” when he learned the baby was ill.

“I was afraid I was going to lose him,” he said. “I thought he was going to die.”

Gaunt said he left the jail to check on the child – who he had never seen – at University of Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. He wasn’t able to drive “very fast” because it was snowing.

Gaunt’s stepfather testified that the child had been sick and was hospitalized. Medical evidence was not presented and it was not confirmed that the child was “dying.”

He was sentenced to 12 months and fined $500 for his theft of the car. The maximum sentence for second-degree escape is five years. However, his status as a persistent felony offender bumped the maximum incarceration to 10 years.

Gaunt, according to Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Whitney Meredith, was found guilty of three felonies before his 22nd birthday.

“Our office was very pleased with the guilty verdict on the escape charge,” Meredith said. “Any time an inmate escapes from the detention facility, it poses a grave risk to the safety of our community. A number of horrible things could have happened before he was apprehended the next day. As for their 10 year recommendation, the Commonwealth believes that Mr. Gaunt's prior criminal history played a significant role in the jury's decision to deliver the maximum sentence of 10 years.”

Final sentencing is Dec. 20.