Inmates charged in second attempted escape in one week

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com
Two inmates of the Carter County Jail were charged with attempted escape early Friday morning after jail personnel found them attempting to escape a cell block through a hole in the ceiling.
Joshua David Whitehead, 25, 227 Centerview Drive, and Miguel Alvarez, 22, of 221 Ridge Hollow Road, Erwin, were charged with attempted escape in the incident.
According to jail personnel, Alvarez was being held on narcotics related charges. Whitehead is being held in prison awaiting trial on two counts of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and one count of vehicular homicide. He was charged with those offenses in relation to a motor vehicle accident which occurred on Aug. 28 of 2002 which left Teresa Sims, age 35, dead and her two young sons, who were ages 4 and 11 at the time, injured.
"On (Friday) while conducting a routine security check of the cell blocks in the jail, officers heard beating and digging noises from A-Block," stated Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Chad Grindstaff in his report on the incident, adding that when he entered A-Block he heard someone in the ceiling area of the block.
"After further investigation, officers discovered inmates Joshua Whitehead and Miguel Alvarez who had made entry through a hole in the ceiling above the shower of the block." Both Whitehead and Alvarez were brought down from the ceiling without further incident, according to Grindstaff's report.
The inmates were then placed into holding cells. The jail escape attempt by Whitehead and Alvarez marks the second attempt in one week for inmates to exit a cell block by means of climbing into the ceiling through a hole above the shower area.
Late Tuesday night, two other inmates were found the ceiling area of the facility and were charged with attempted escape. In that incident, Wade Evan Hampton, age 37, of 540 Cloudland Road, Roan Mountain, and Ralph Wayne Whitehead, age 24, of 401 Rittertown Road, Hampton, were charged with attempted escape. They were being held in the H-Block of the detention facility.
The inmates were charged in both incidents with attempted escape, following a decision made by Carter County Sheriff John Henson after a similar incident occurred on July 9, 2002. In that incident, a jailer heard what was described as "digging" noises around 11:30 p.m. that in the D-Block area of the detention facility.
When jailers entered D-Block, they found two male inmates leaving the shower area and when they looked inside the shower area, they discovered a female inmate standing in one of the shower stalls wearing nothing but her bra and panties.
While jailers were removing the female inmate from the men's block of the jail, she advised the jailer that one of the male inmates had entered the women's block of the jail, G-Block. Jailers then entered G-Block and discovered the man in the ceiling area above the toilet in the block's day room.
The female subject involved in the incident advised the jailers that nothing of a sexual nature had transpired between and the male inmates and herself. Henson stated at that time that when male and female inmates are housed in the same facility, then incidents such as that would occur.
"It's unfortunate, but until other arrangements are made with this ventilation system, we're going to have problems from time to time. Anytime you can take a vent out of the jail and go up into the roof, and go into another cell, it's bad," Henson told The Star in July 2002. "The vents have locks on them but what they do is tear the locks off. The ceiling is nothing but plaster and they can rip that vent out easily."
After the incident in July of 2002, Henson stated that anyone who was caught in the ventilation system or the ceiling at the jail would be charged with attempted escape.