Files in Arkansas State Hospital escape show contraband finding

Posted: April 24, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Michelle Messer, 42, of Sherwood

Authorities found unknown pills, USB cables and bottles of vaping liquid in a patient's room at the Arkansas State Hospital the morning he left the facility with a staff member last month, police and court records show.

Michelle Messer, who worked as a psychological examiner at the facility, now faces a misdemeanor charge of aiding an unauthorized departure and one felony count of furnishing prohibited articles.

Authorities said Messer, 42, left the facility with patient Cory Chapin on March 20 after she was questioned about how the patient got contraband items. The two were taken into custody less than a week later in Nevada and subsequently transported back to Arkansas, authorities said.

Messer was not listed on the Pulaski County jail roster Monday. The relationship between Messer and Chapin was unclear as of Monday.

The morning Messer left the facility with Chapin, police were called around 7:02 a.m. on a contraband-related report, according to a recently obtained affidavit that reveals new details on the case.

A staff member said a patient had provided information that Chapin had contraband, according to a police report.

The affidavit says an officer then went to Chapin's room and questioned him. Chapin then handed over a vaping device and a bottle of vaping liquid, police said.

During a search of the room, authorities found a cellphone, 15 bottles of vaping liquid, three USB power banks, a clear plastic bag with 21 "unknown capsules," and five USB cables, the affidavit states.

Chapin told authorities he got the items from a former nurse. Police later received information from another patient that Chapin had received the items from Messer.

"It was determined that the contraband was actually brought [into] the facility at the time of Chapin's admission," the court documents say.

Police said the contraband, located in a backpack, had been secured in the police property room until a doctor's order allowed the property to be given to Chapin's father. A program staff member then received the property and put it in his office, according to the affidavit.

The document said Messer, who had access to the office, would use it to have consultations with Chapin, "sometimes for unusually long extended periods of time with the door shut," according to the staff member. The situation allowed Messer the opportunity to give the contraband items to Chapin, the affidavit states.

Before leaving the facility, Messer gave the backpack to a friend and told her to keep it because Chapin's room was going to be searched and she needed the backpack out of her office as well, according to the friend.

Authorities also found a receipt for 10 vaping liquid bottles in Messer's office, bottles that were identical to the one Chapin gave to the officer, according to the affidavit.

"Messer also purchased blue jeans online and had them shipped to Chapin," the affidavit says.

Before leaving the facility, Messer talked with authorities but denied any knowledge of a cellphone and vaping machine that were found in Chapin's possession, according to an affidavit from Perry Wyse, chief of the State Hospital Police Department.

The chief told Messer to have no contact with Chapin and said she needed to wait in her office for her supervisor to arrive at work. Instead, court records show, Messer left the police chief's office, went to a unit in the hospital and waited for Chapin to walk by the door.

"Messer opened the door and had patient Cory Chapin follow her into the hallway and out the rear door of the Arkansas State Hospital," the affidavit says. Police said the two then left together.

Metro on 04/24/2018