Hobbs nabbed in Alabama

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

MONGOMERY, Ala. – Bennie &uot;BJ&uot; Hobbs’ flight to freedom lasted only 72 hours.

Hobbs, convicted of two counts of second-degree murder in the 1999 deaths of his uncle and his uncle’s girlfriend in the Northampton community of George, surrendered to a Montgomery, Ala. police officer at approximately 9:20 p.m. here Tuesday. He had been on the run since escaping from the Western Youth Institution (WYI) in Burke County (NC) on Saturday night.

According to information released by Bob Merrill, Assistant Superintendent at WYI, Hobbs apparently flagged down an officer with the Montgomery Police Department and informed him that he was an escapee from a North Carolina prison.

&uot;Essentially, Hobbs turned himself in,&uot; said Merrill. &uot;He had gotten rid of his prison-issued clothing and was wearing street clothes – a t-shirt, gray pants and brown shoes – at the time he was arrested.&uot;

Merrill went on to say that Hobbs was in possession of a Nissan Maxima station wagon, presumably stolen from a person living in Rutherford County, located about 30 miles south of Burke County.

&uot;We were hoping that he hadn’t got out of Burke County, but just in case, we had notified law enforcement agencies in the Northampton-Hertford county area as well as in Alabama because he has relatives living in both places,&uot; stated Merrill. &uot;It’s to my understanding that Hobbs’ grandmother lived in the Montgomery area.&uot;

Hobbs, sentenced to a maximum of 58 years, pulled off Saturday’s escape with another WYI inmate, Kentay Lamarr Lee of Mecklenburg County. Merrill said the pair was assigned to a work detail, cleaning the second floor of the 16-story high-rise prison at about 9 p.m. on Saturday when they successfully carried out their escape plan.

The pair entered a mechanical room on the second floor, one with an air vent that vented directly to the outside of the building. The vent contained aluminum louvers and was covered by metal wire. They pulled away a section of the wire and then kicked the louvers, opening up a way to gain access to the outside of the building.

Once outside, the pair stepped onto the roof of an adjoining chapel building and made their way down to the end of the chapel roof, where it connects with the main building, and eventually made their way to the ground. From there, they ran a short distance to a razor wire fence surrounding the compound, scaled it and escaped.

Lee’s flight to freedom was short-lived as he was captured a half-hour later approximately one-half mile from the prison. Lee, 19, is serving a sentence for first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Merrill said it was apparent that Hobbs and Lee split up after they escaped. He also said he is relatively sure that Hobbs stole a pick-up truck from a business located near the prison, but only drove it for approximately three miles before abandoning the vehicle in the parking lot of a textile plant. Using bloodhounds, Burke County lawmen and prison officials scoured the area, but Hobbs never surfaced.

Now back behind bars, Hobbs is awaiting extradition to North Carolina.

&uot;Once we get him back he’ll be placed in intensive control, meaning he’ll be watched very closely,&uot; noted Merrill.

Merrill said he wasn’t sure if Hobbs would be transferred out of WYI.

&uot;We’ll keep him for a while longer,&uot; he stated. &uot;If he is moved, there’s only a couple of closed custody places he could be sent – Foothills Youth Institution, which is right across the road from us, or Polk Youth Institution in Durham.&uot;

Hobbs, who just turned 20 last month, can remain in a youth institution up until age 23. From there, he’ll be transferred to an adult facility to finish out his prison term.

Merrill said that Hobbs faces up to an additional five-year maximum sentence for escaping. He added that most first-time escapees only receive one-year of additional time.

Hobbs, then age 16, was first incarcerated at WYI in November of 1999. That came on the heels of a plea arrangement heard in Hertford County Superior Court where he pled guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of his uncle, Francis Lee Hobbs, and his uncle’s girlfriend, Marsha Howell Bayse. He shot the pair with a 12-guage shotgun while they slept in the bedroom of their George residence.

B. Hobbs then stole money, guns and a pick-up truck, all belonging to his uncle, and fled to Alexander City, Ala., where several family members resided. After authorities in Alabama were informed of the double homicide in North Carolina, those family members turned Hobbs in.