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Review shows deputy error led to near escape

HILLSBORO - Jim Parmelee, the first inmate to nearly escape the new Washington County Jail, fooled two deputies for about three hours into believing he was still in his cell, according to an internal investigation of the June 19 incident.

Jail officials said the 44-year-old inmate stuffed his bed with clothing and hid in a recreation area. He then used an improvised tool to pry through a steel-wire security fence.

Still stuck in an outdoor area open to the sky, Parmelee climbed 10 to 15 feet up a drainpipe before falling to the ground.

'It could have been done,' said jail Commander David Kirby. 'I think he had doubt and fell.'

Deputies eventually found him stuck between the jail's walls, lying on the ground with an injured back and ribs.

At the time, jail officials said the attempted escape proved the jail, constructed in 1998, is well designed.

But the incident also showed that at least two deputies became too comfortable in their jobs and made mistakes that could have been easily avoided, according to the internal investigation recently completed and sent to Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon.

Jail officials said the deputies - one young and inexperienced - failed to follow policies that ensure all inmates are accounted for at regular time intervals. They said deputies should have found Parmelee about a half hour after he hid himself.

The names of the deputies were not released. Gordon said they are 'good people,' and that he is leaving a decision about their discipline to Kirby, who said action would be taken but declined to provide specifics.

'It was an event I have mixed feelings about,' Gordon said.

'Mistakes were made'

According to the investigation, Parmelee went missing at about 5:25 p.m. June 19. He was one of about 60 inmates in a ground floor pod - a secure area with individual cells and a common eating and recreation area.

The area is supervised by one deputy.

At about 6 p.m., the first deputy went on break. Before doing so, he failed to follow a jail policy that required him to 'check for skin' to ensure each inmate was in his cell or accounted for.

At about 7 p.m., a second deputy conducted a formal count of the inmates but did not do it properly. Parmelee's escape went undetected.

It was not until about 8:30 p.m. that Parmelee was discovered missing during another official count where medicine was distributed to the inmates, jail officials said.

'There were mistakes made,' he said, 'but these folks weren't intending for any of this to happen. This was a good learning experience for everyone in the jail.'

In addition to correcting the staff mistakes, Kirby also ordered increased security measures on the five ground floor pods. The security fences in the recreation areas were reinforced and inmates now must keep about a foot away from the fences.

Razor wire will also be placed over the drain pipes soon, Kirby said.

In the meantime, Parmelee, who was booked into the jail on multiple charges stemming from several retail store robberies in Tualatin, Tigard and Raleigh Hills, also was charged with second-degree escape.

He is in the jail's maximum security pod, segregated from other inmates.