An Orangeburg County inmate was taken back into custody early Saturday after he emerged from the woods and asked for clothes, according to Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young.
“I’m glad we were able to apprehend him and get him behind bars,” Young said.
The escape is still under investigation.
Austin Craig Nettles was taken into custody on Friday on an alleged parole violation. He complained of not feeling well and possibly experiencing a seizure, so he was taken by EMS to the hospital.
He was waiting in a triage area and his cuffs were loosened in anticipation of him receiving an MRI, Young said. Security included guards and hospital staff.
While he was wearing a hospital gown, Neetles said he was cold and asked for a blanket.
“All of a sudden he popped up from the sheet,” Young said. Officers tried to stop Nettles, but Young noted it is difficult to subdue a naked person.
The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies searched an area along St. Matthews Road from Fire Tower Road to State A&M Road. Fire Tower Road residents were asked to lock their doors.
An officer reported spotting a naked Nettles on the railroad tracks behind the Dodge/Ram/Jeep dealership on Friday evening.
The still-naked Nettles was finally taken into custody at 5 a.m. Saturday after he approached someone on Usher Road and asked for some clothes. The resident contacted authorities, who quickly surrounded the area and captured Nettles.
Young said Nettles is back at the Orangeburg County Detention Center.
“He is very much confined at this moment,” Young said.
Several agencies joined in the search, including the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, the S.C. Highway Patrol and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, which searched by helicopter.
Orangeburg County’s GIS division and its drones helped with the search, along with the Risk Management and Emergency Management divisions.
Young noted Sheriff Leroy Ravenell stayed at the scene during the hunt.
The sheriff’s office and administration were able to work together to take Nettles into custody, Young said.
Also, officers were willing to selflessly go into wooded areas at night to keep the public safe.
“We commend them,” Young said. He noted such situations also affect the families of the accused.
The Orangeburg County administration works to be transparent, Young said. Special software allowed the county to send warnings about the situation to residents of the area.