Escape plot foiled at jail

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2009

One-time escapee and accused murderer Michael Barbaree has been charged in a failed scheme to escape from the Covington County Jail.

Sheriff Dennis Meeks said Tuesday that Barbaree had made preparations to “facilitate” an escape, going as far as to fashion a “weapon” from a light fixture inside his cell.

“During a routine shake down (last week), correctional officers and deputies discovered the metal portion of a light fixture inside his jail cell,” Meeks said. “(Barbaree) had formed it into a tool to try and attempt to facilitate an escape. It could have also been used as a weapon, but due to the quick action of correctional officers and deputies, those items were recovered.

“Barbaree was nowhere close to ever being able to implement any type of those actions,” he said. “But those items found could have been used as either a weapon or in some way to escape. That’s why he was charged.”

Barbaree, who was in jail awaiting trial on charges of capital murder, first-degree arson, attempted murder and violation of probation, now faces additional charges of first-degree escape and promoting prison contraband. He is currently being held without bond in a secured holding cell, Meeks said.

Barbaree first made news in November 2002, when he, along with Charles Meeks and convicted murderers Oscar Roy Doster and Bobby O’Lee Phillips, escaped from the county jail through the ventilation system.

Barbaree served his time on those charges, but now stands accused of murdering Travis Sasser of Dozier and leaving Sasser’s bed-ridden wife to burn to death inside the couple’s Odom Road home in May. Sasser’s wife survived the murder attempt.

When questioned why Barbaree was not moved to another facility, both Meeks and District Attorney Greg Gambril said Barbaree couldn’t be moved until a mental evaluation is conducted and probation revocation hearing is held. That hearing is expected in October, Gambril said.