A crumpled, gray shirt.

That was the first lead that law enforcement officials found as the search continued Friday for an inmate who escaped from William S. Key Correctional Center Thursday morning.

Kirk A. Hazlett, 32, who was serving time at William S. Key Correctional Center for domestic abuse and injury to a public building, “just kind of walked off” sometime between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Thursday, said Linda Eike, public information officer for W. S. Key.

After activating a search at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, law enforcement officials from various agencies, including the Department of Corrections, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Woodward County Sheriff’s Office, continued to search into the night without any luck.

Without any further leads, law enforcement officials were on a “roaming” status as they continued a broad search of areas around the minimum security prison Friday until the discovery of the gray inmate shirt, Eike said.

The shirt was found in a clearing approximately two miles southeast of the facility around 3 p.m., she said.

However, no tracks were discovered leading away from the clearing, she said, and the first possible lead in several hours quickly dried up.

But around 4 p.m., deputies with the Woodward County Sheriff’s Office got another lead when someone called in to report that his lunch had been stolen from his work truck, Acting Sheriff Don Bradley said.

Because the man had been clearing out cedar trees from a remote location on the Chain Ranch approximately six miles north and four miles west of Woodward, it indicated that the theft could have been committed by a hungry escapee, Bradley said.

After receiving this tip, the sheriff’s office established a perimeter around the Chain Ranch with the assistance of the DOC officers, he said.

But after four hours of patrolling with no sightings of Hazlett and no additional leads, Bradley released some of his deputies as night fell around 8:30 p.m. Friday so they could respond to other calls.

However, DOC officers remained in the area to continue a roving search, he said, noting that the same man who reported his lunch missing earlier in the day contacted the sheriff’s office to report that a flannel jacket and some work gloves were also missing from his truck.

With this information, Bradley said he believes Hazlett has gotten a change of clothes and “is probably still in the area.”

So, the Woodward County Sheriff’s Office sent a special thermal imaging device for the DOC officers to use as they continued to search through the night, he said.

Because of the cold front that moved through the area Friday night, Bradley said the device could help officers locate Hazlett through his body heat.

“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” he said. “But we still have a chance.”

In fact, Bradley said there might be a chance that the dropping temperature would tempt Hazlett to turn himself in.

“In the past, on nights colder than this, we’ve had escapees turn themselves in,” he said.

However, Bradley said he has heard reports that Hazlett had previously escaped from custody in Arizona a number of years ago and survived in the desert for quite a while before being apprehended.

“After surviving in the desert. . ., he could probably handle our climate,” he said.

As the search went into its second night, Bradley said it had become “kind of a hurry up and wait situation.”

“It’s a tricky game we play when we search for an escaped inmate,” he said.

And as the game continues, the public is urged to be cautious and aware, especially since his predicted direction of travel is heading toward more populated areas, Bradley said.

“Be on the lookout,” he said. “Look for anything out of the ordinary.”

Hazlett is a white male and is approximately 5’7” tall, weighing 150 pounds. He has long brown hair and hazel eyes.

His identifying marks include tattoos on the fingers of his left hand that spell out B-E-T-H, a tattoo of ripped skin on his left arm, and tattoos on both his shoulders.

He was last seen wearing a gray stocking cap, a gray sweatshirt, a gray state issue shirt, and green New Balance tennis shoes.

However, Friday’s discoveries have led law enforcement officials to believe Hazlett could be wearing a red and black flannel jacket and white work gloves to “try to fit in a little better,” Bradley said.

If you have any information or would like to report a possible sighting or any suspicious activity, contact local law enforcement or contact W. S. Key at (580) 766-2224.

Trending Video

Recommended for you