Greene officials looking at ways to prevent prison escapes

June 24, 2013
Jason W. Roe and Rocco J. Iacovone

WAYNESBURG – Greene County officials say they are looking at ways to prevent a reoccurrence of Saturday’s escape by two inmates from Greene County Prison.

About 12:30 p.m., the inmates, one charged with homicide and the other with armed robbery, escaped from the prison on Rolling Meadows Road in Franklin Township.

The men, Jason W. Roe, 33, of Daisytown, awaiting trial for the Aug. 14 slaying of Cordele Patterson of Grindstone; and Rocco J. Iacovone, 27, of East Washington, being held on armed robbery charges out of Fairmont, W.Va., and Washington County, were captured without incident about two hours following their escape less than a mile from the prison.

“We are doing an internal investigation and looking at the policies and procedures we follow,” warden Harry D. Gillispie said Monday. “We’re going to look at everything, like we do when we have any kind of critical situation. We’ll look at what we need to change or if we need to beef some things up.”

Gillispie said he knows how the prisoners escaped but didn’t want to release the information until the investigation is completed. “Once we have everything wrapped up, we’ll release it,” he said.

The warden did say Monday that steps were taken immediately to prevent another escape from occurring in the same manner as Saturday’s incident.

He also said he was investigating the implementation of an automatic telephone calling system that would notify surrounding residents about incidents such as an escape at the prison.

An automatic call system had been discussed in the past when the prison was considering accepting state inmates; however, the idea was dropped when no state prisoners were received by the institution, he said.

Gillispie had met Monday morning with the county commissioners and county officials to discuss the weekend’s event, Commissioner Blair Zimmerman said.

“Warden Gillispie has already come up with some good ideas to make sure the prison is secure,” Zimmerman said. “There will be steps taken to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Zimmerman said he was informed about circumstances surrounding the escape, but would not comment until the investigation is completed.

“We will be working with warden Gillispie to take whatever steps are needed to prevent anything like this from happening again,” Zimmerman said. He, too, spoke of the need for the prison to implement a system to notify residents of incidents at the prison.

A prison staff member had seen the inmates running from the prison. State police were notified and responded with troopers from the Waynesburg barracks as well as from the Uniontown and Washington barracks, said state police Trooper Bart Lemansky. Local police also helped in the search, he said.

The state police helicopter, which also responded, spotted the two men in a wooded area near the Emerald Mine portal, south of the prison. Troopers were sent to the area and apprehended the men without incident, Lemansky said.

Both men were charged with escape. Roe was returned to the Greene County lockup and Iacovone was transferred to the Washington County jail.

State police are also investigating the escape, though Lemansky said he could not release details. “We have not 100 percent finalized our investigation,” he said.

Roe and his wife, Lana Roe, 40, are awaiting trial for the shooting death of Patterson at a hunting cabin in a remote area of Wayne Township. Police allege Lana Roe lured Patterson to the cabin where her husband shot him with a shotgun.

Iacovone pleaded guilty last month and is awaiting sentencing for fleeing and eluding police and reckless endangerment in connection with a Feb. 13 police chase on Interstate 79. Iacovone was being chased by police after he allegedly robbed a convenience store near Fairmont. He also has been charged by South Strabane police with the Feb. 11 armed robbery of the BP station on Racetrack Road.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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