Half Of The Escapees Caught

Tonight, half of the prison escapees who led a mass breakout on Monday have been recaptured. When we left you last night - 22 were still at large; tonight it is 14, after 8 more were caught between last night and this afternoon - including alleged co-ring leader Joel Sierra.

We'll tell you all about them in a minute, but we start with the 7 who were taken to court today to be arraigned on escape charges.

They were arraigned in the Magistrate's Court on the crime of escape from prison, and 5 out of 7 have pleaded guilty.

They are Guatemalan Juan Ramirez, and the Belizeans: Christopher Bradley, George Bednrick, Orlando Smith, Kenroy Gamboa, Kevin Buller, and Mark Pelayo. They were arraigned before Senior Magistrate Tricia Pitts-Anderson.

Ramirez, Bednrick, and Gamboa did not waste the court's time, and they pleaded guilty to the crime. The Senior Magistrate sentenced all 3 of them to serve 1 year in prison which is to run consecutively to any other sentence they were serving before they escape. Bradley and Smith also pleaded guilty to the charge, but they were given a stiffer sentence of 1 year and 3 months, which is also to run consecutively to any sentence they were serving before they escaped.

Pelayo pleaded not guilty to his charge, and so, he has been remanded back to prison until December 4th, his next court date.

In the case of Kevin Buller, he also pleaded not guilty to the charge, and his explanation to the presiding magistrate was that the other escapees threatened him into joining the prison break. He has been remanded into custody until December 4th, which his next court date.

After the very lengthy arraignment, we got a chance to speak with Buller's attorney about his claim that he was forced into participating in the escape. Here's how that conversation went right outside the courtroom:

Ronell Gonzalez - Attorney for Kevin Buller

"This morning, Mr. Buller was arraigned for the offense of escape from prison, and he was pleaded. He pleaded not guilty, and that plea was accepted by the magistrate. What happened, it is common knowledge that there were 3 masterminds behind this entire escape. And, my client's instructions are that he was given an ultimatum. He either went along with the situation, or he would have been dealt with by the other prisoners who were there. So, basically, he was under duress. So, to speak to act in that manner, I should state for the record that my client, Mr. Buller, was actually on remand for a very basic offense. He's on remand for the offense of breach of curfew. That, in itself, is a bailable offense. The facts as to why he was there remanded on such a basic offense is beyond me. I would have to investigate further into that."

Reporter

"What was his explanation for taking so long to either turn himself in or to get somewhere where he could be safely away from these persons who put him under duress?"

Ronell Gonzalez

"Could you imagine the situation of being in fear, now that you're an escapee from the prison? And, [according] to my instructions again, he was found somewhere lurking in the same Hattieville area. He wasn't in hiding. He isn't badly beaten or so. So, I find it that he was lurking, hoping to be found, and to be returned to the prison."

COMPOL Says 14 Armed And Dangerous Men Remain At Large

And, pretty soon, 7 more escapees will be going to court. They include those caught between last night and this afternoon.

The two caught last night are 24 year old Orlando Smith from Roaring Creek Village, and 20 year old Kenroy Gamboa from Belize City.

And then this morning, 22-year-old Deon White from Belize City was caught.

And, most recently, this afternoon: alleged ringleader 30-year-old Joel Sierra from Santa Elena, Cayo, 27 year old Phillip Bowen of Hopkins Village, 30 year old Daren Vasquez of Teakettle Village, 20 year old DeAndre Guiffaro of Seine Bite Village, and 20 year old Victor Galeano of Cristo Rey Village.

This morning - before those last 5 were caught - we spoke to the Commissioner about those who have been recaptured and the 14 dangerous and desperate men who remain at large:

Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police

"We continue our manhunt in respect to the prison break, and so far we have recaptured a total of 9 of the escapees leaving a total of 19 who are still at large, of the 9 who have been recaptured one of those individual's, Akeem Tillett was shot and killed during the manhunt in the coastal road area. The others have been charged by the police for escape and will be arraigned in court today."

And while 7 were taken to court one was not. That's Deon White, the escapee who was caught just this morning, his sister explained what happened when she saw him.

Jules Vasquez

"So, what was your physical reaction when you see the news this morning that Deon White has been safely captured and he has the picture with his hands up?"

Deidra Avila - Deon White's sister

"Well I felt so good the eye water even drop and everything because I gone sleep and said I hope they find my brother, I wish I could even see the news that how, I just felt so happy man, I feel good now and I hope they find the rest safe and everything. This morning they called me for me to go to jail. My mother and I went well. Well, I'm glad how we got to talk to him. I was so happy to see him because it had been months since we'd seen him but the only thing, I'm disappointed about that hurts my heart is that they beat him up so bad that it made me even cry."

Jules Vasquez

"Might it have been injuries that he got while on the run because you know they were in the bush and so too?"

Deidra Avila

"But he said he didn't run from them, when he saw them he was drinking water and when they were coming he just put up his hands. He said they stood on his ears and his toenail came off. His hands were bruised up foot. I just can't even talk I just cried I don't like seeing him in pain."

Jules Vasquez

"You said that it's a bad move he made because he was on remand and you felt he would have gotten off and he made the situation worse for himself. Why he get eena this breakout?"

Deidra Avila

"That's the same thing I want to know, even if you see somebody running. I wouldn't have ran because I would make worse on myself. Like I said, you never know why the run, so I can't judge and say he run. Even if you force them and thing but I still don't now I don't think any of them would want to run again because he done see what happen to him now, how they beat him bad, so I don't think he would want run again. I don't think anyone would want to run again."

5 more learned that lesson well: Phillip Bowen, Deandre Guiffaro, Darren Vasquez, Victor Galeano, and alleged ringleader Joel Sierra were caught at the Mile 25 community this afternoon: hiding in A Taiwanese resident's lawn.

So that leaves 14 escapees who remain on the run, the commissioner says he considers them to be armed and dangerous, and he hasn't ruled out the possibility that they've acquired even more weapons.

Cherisse Halsall

"Sir we have information that the BDF Lance Corporal was shot with a shotgun do those escapees still currently have that shotgun in their possession?"

Chester Williams

"We have only recovered the M4 Carbine, we have not recovered any other weapon from them so if that is the case then yes, they would still have it. Of course, a man on the run from the long arm of the law will surely try his utmost best to arm himself so that he can ward off and defend himself from the security forces and so like I said before we expect that they are armed and dangerous."

Channel 7