Originally created 12/02/99

Prison escapee found



A Hancock State Prison inmate -- serving life plus 20 years after pleading guilty to murder and burglary charges -- briefly escaped Wednesday by hiding in garbage that was hauled to the Richmond County landfill.

William Coleman Davis, 41, was working in the kitchen of the prison when he hid in a trash bin at the Sparta, Ga., facility, a state Department of Corrections spokeswoman said. After riding all the way to Richmond County in the garbage, Mr. Davis was spotted rolling out of a dump truck by a landfill worker who alerted his superiors, leading to a 1 1/2 -hour manhunt on Deans Bridge and Birdwell roads in south Richmond County.

"He was in there with the cardboard and the plastic bags," said Nolan Knight, a heavy-equipment operator who was driving a bulldozer when the bin was dumped in front of him. "I just saw legs and arms come rolling out of the truck. He fell at the bottom of the bulldozer -- I (almost) ran over the guy."

Mr. Knight recognized the gray shirt, pants and sweatshirt as a prison uniform, but didn't recognize the face, although some prisoners work at the landfill.

"I pretty much know the guys, and they know me, but I'd never seen this guy before," Mr. Knight said.

Mr. Davis ran into a wooded area behind the landfill, where Richmond County sheriff's investigators and the Crime Suppression Team searched until discovering the fugitive shortly after 1:30 p.m. -- only a quarter-mile from a sheriff's department training facility on Deans Bridge Road, Chief Deputy Ronald Strength said. Hancock prison officials conducted an emergency count of prisoners as Richmond officers searched, discovering they were missing an inmate.

Mr. Davis was transferred back to Hancock County after his capture, Chief Deputy Strength said.

He is four years into his sentence, but has no parole date or maximum release date set, corrections spokeswoman Abigail Morgan said.

He was sentenced in 1995 after pleading guilty to murder and burglary charges in the shooting death of a Paulding County woman the previous year, court documents show. He testified in the trial of a co-defendant that they intended to rob Melody Richardson -- who was shot four times at her home on Dec. 17, 1994 -- because she and her husband were "big-time" drug dealers and always had a lot of cash and drugs at their home.

Paulding County investigators recovered a .38-caliber pistol and a .380-caliber pistol that matched the weapons used to shoot Mrs. Richardson, and two rifles and a shotgun stolen from the home.

Mr. Davis pointed the finger at his co-defendant, saying the other man had shot Mrs. Richardson and her greyhound dog, which also was killed.

Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223.