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Three days after what authorities said they believe was a planned escape from a north Arkansas jail, a slaying suspect has still not been located, authorities said Monday.

The Searcy County sheriff's office said Monday in a news release that Matthew Clayton Armstrong, 31, who was charged in the shooting death of Jessica Thornton in March, has not been captured.

Armstrong and another man, Jason Brannon, escaped from the Searcy County jail in Marshall on Saturday night after overpowering a guard, according to the release.

Jason Christian, an inmate being held on a charge of failure to appear in court, created a disturbance in the jail at 9:13 p.m. Saturday, the release said, and assaulted a deputy jailer.

Jailer Crockett Ward said Christian grabbed and restrained the jailer during a transfer from the day room to the inmates' cells. Brannon and Armstrong ran through a hall where other jailers were moving inmates, he said, and escaped through the rear exit of the facility.

Ward said he believed the escape was planned.

"If they didn't [plan the escape], it was very convenient," Ward said.

Marshall police officers caught Brannon, who was being held on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender, just hours after his escape.

Ward said Brannon and Christian have now been returned to their cells and are on lockdown, but that they have not told investigators any details of the escape plan or where Armstrong might be.

The deputy jailer, Ward said, was unharmed.

Sheriff Joey Pruitt said Armstrong might be accompanied by Mandy Watts, though officials gave no further information on the woman or a reason for the connection.

The Arkansas State Police; the sheriff's offices in Benton, Boone, Stone, Pope, Marion, Newton and Van Buren County counties; Arkansas Community Correction; the Department of Correction's K-9 Team; the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission; and the National Park Service are currently aiding in the search for Armstrong, according to the media release.

Pruitt said many tips about Armstrong's whereabouts have been received at the sheriff's office so far, and that anyone with information should contact the office at (870) 448-2340.

"Armstrong is still considered dangerous and may be armed," Pruitt said. "We encourage everyone in the community to remain vigilant and keep their vehicles, doors and windows locked and secure."

Armstrong was arrested March 1 on a charge of first-degree murder in Thornton's death. Court documents say Armstrong told the Searcy County sheriff's office that Thornton had shot herself, but autopsy reports indicated that the gunshot was not close enough to be self-inflicted.

Armstrong had been in the Searcy County jail in lieu of a $1 million bond before he escaped Saturday.

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Metro on 07/17/2018

Print Headline: Jail escapee eludes capture for 3rd day in Searcy County

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