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Published Monday, May 29, 2000, in The State.

Murder suspect flees at gate of county jail

Staff Writer
A Columbia murder suspect wriggled free of police custody Sunday by jumping out of a patrol car just yards away from the jail but was recaptured within 30 minutes.

Kim Hayden, charged in the killing of escaped work-release inmate Sarah Gaddist last week, somehow removed the plastic cord-like handcuffs binding his wrists just after 6 p.m. as he was sitting in the back of a city of Columbia patrol car, according to police.

The 24-year-old jumped out of the cruiser as it was pulling into the entrance road of the Richland County Detention Center, police said.

"He was restrained," said Lt. Rafael Rodriguez at the escape scene off Bluff Road. "I don't know how he managed to do that, but he did."

Police had arrested Hayden earlier in the day, Chief Charles Austin said.

Hayden is accused of murdering Gaddist, 22, whose body was found Thursday off Two Notch Road. She had been strangled, according to the Richland County coroner's office.

Gaddist was serving a three-year sentence at State Park Correctional Institution for exploiting the elderly, said John Barkley, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. She walked away from a work-release program May 21, Barkley said.

Hayden, who has no permanent address, knew Gaddist, police Capt. Steve Conley said. The captain said physical evidence at the scene linked Hayden to the crime. Conley would not elaborate.

The quick but intense search Sunday was reminiscent of another manhunt in the same area just a few months ago. In March, the same stretch of Bluff Road was the scene of the massive manhunt for John David Barnett, suspected in a string of armed robberies. Barnett later was captured out of state.

"It's happened two times lately in the same area," said Marion Burnside, who parked his car beside the road to see what the commotion was about. "I just passed by here a few minutes ago going to the store and nothing was going on. I didn't think anything could happen that fast."

The back doors of the police car could be opened only from the outside. But Hayden freed himself of the plastic Flexcuffs and apparently reached out of a half-open car window, lifted the door handle and made a run for it, Rodriguez said.

An officer, T.B. Thomas, radioed dispatchers, screaming that her prisoner had escaped. She'd chased after him but was unable to catch up.

When other officers asked what her prisoner was charged with, she radioed back, breathless, "Signal 32 -- murder."

That set in motion an urgent response from police officers, tracking dogs and a search helicopter.

Within 15 minutes of Thomas' first frantic calls for help, police rushed in with tracking dogs into the thick woods where Hayden ran.

It wasn't long before the dogs began closing in and a Richland County deputy had Hayden back in handcuffs.

"Attention all units," came the news over the police radio. "In reference to the escapee, county has the suspect in custody."

Hayden, his close-cropped hair littered with sticks and grass, sobbed in the back of a patrol car after his recapture.

"It feels good to have him back into custody," Rodriguez said. "I would have hated for him to get away. I feel bad that he was able to get out in the first place."

Flexcuffs aren't any easier to escape from than traditional handcuffs, Rodriguez said.

"It's happened before in different departments. It's not a common thing," Rodriguez said.

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