Escapees Head Back to Court, Prison

By Beacon Staff

POLSON (AP) – Two Montana State Prison escapees, one once accused of plotting to kidnap David Letterman’s son, appeared in court Thursday on escape warrants and then were put in vehicles for a 150-mile road trip to the prison.

Kelly A. Frank and William J. Willcutt were taken into custody Wednesday, in apprehensions several hours and a mountain range apart, after six days on the lam.

Lake County officers arrested Frank at a home along Montana 35 between Polson and Bigfork while on patrol as part of a search for the inmates. Willcutt was arrested at a home in the Swan Lake area after the residents, in the yard when a man entered the dwelling, contacted authorities.

Frank, 45, and Willcutt, 22, appeared Thursday in Lake County Justice Court on arrest warrants from Powell County, which includes the prison. They were informed their arrests were on allegations of felony escape, and were told bail would not be set. Prison spokeswoman Dana Eldredge said earlier that each man faces an additional prison sentence of up to 10 years for escape.

The inmates fled the prison ranch last Friday.

Frank had been a painter at the Letterman ranch near Choteau and was serving 10 years for overcharging the TV talk-show host. Authorities arrested Frank in 2005 on suspicion that he plotted the kidnap of Harry Letterman and his nanny for ransom of $5 million. A charge of solicitation to kidnap was dropped in return for pleas of guilty to other charges, including felony theft and misdemeanor obstruction.

Willcutt has been convicted of burglary.

He was arrested about two miles from a campground where U.S. Forest Service personnel spotted the escapees Tuesday evening. The campground is on the east side of the Mission Mountains. Frank was arrested on the west side.

He was wearing pants but no shirt or shoes and his feet looked “pretty raw,” Lake County Undersheriff Jay Doyle said. Frank apparently had walked about 10 miles to cross the mountains.

On Tuesday the men fled the campground area, apparently upon realizing they had been spotted. Prison Warden Mike Mahoney said he received information indicating the men appeared to have been in a river, one was out long enough to dress partially and the other wore little as he fled.

The men were placed in separate, escorted vehicles for the trip to the prison Thursday.

Willcutt was denied parole earlier this year. Before the escape, Frank would have been eligible for parole in three months.

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