AUSTIN (KXAN) — Bond has been set for over $1.75 million for the man accused of murdering two people from Temple, Texas, earlier this month.
Cedric Marks, 44, is charged with capital murder of multiple persons in connection with the deaths of Michael Swearingin, 32, and Jenna Scott, 28, who went missing in early January. Their bodies were found a week later in shallow graves in Oklahoma.
A Bell County judge set a $1.5 million bond for the two capital murder charges: $250,000 for a burglary charge and $16,500 for other miscellaneous charges.
“It’s still tough to process, we’re still grieving and were fortunate that Jenna and Michael were found and that this is going to move forward as a murder case, as it should, and we will seek justice at some point in the future for Jenna and Michael,” said Scott’s father, Jonathan Scott.
Several questions remain unanswered after Marks escaped a private prison transport and eluded law enforcement for nine hours on Sunday.
Texas Prisoner Transportation Services, a private transport company located out of Taylor, Texas, had Marks in custody as it extradited him from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Texas. Marks escaped from the vehicle in Montgomery County while the van stopped at a McDonald’s.
The organization is comprised of criminal justice specialists with law enforcement backgrounds, whose job is to transport inmates from jurisdictions across the country.
Texas Prisoner Transportation Services refused to comment on the circumstances of Marks’ escape and would not offer a written statement. Jeff Christy, the Conroe chief of police where Marks was caught, said Marks was bound during the transport.
“He had on leg restraints, hand restraints and a belly restraint that attaches the three together. It is unknown how many of those were connected when he escaped or how he was able to remove any of those,” Chief Christy said.
How law enforcement transports inmates in Texas
KXAN placed several phone calls to law enforcement groups in central Texas to find out who else uses Texas Prisoner Transportation Services to deliver inmates to its facilities.
Lt. Todd Riffe with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office said it has had no issues when using the private company to shuttle inmates. Riffe said his department primarily uses the service for long, out-of-state transports.
Kristen Dark, public information officer for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, said her department uses Texas Prisoner Transportation services about 10 percent of the time, but never for high-risk inmates. TCSO has its own prisoner transportation unit comprised of 46 officers, four office specialists, three sergeants and one lieutenant. This year, TCSO officers transported 28,285 inmates to the Travis County criminal and civil courts. The unit also handled 1,297 extraditions to and from agencies all over the United States.
Patricia Gutierrez, head of public information at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office said her department doesn’t use any outside services. Sheriff Chody’s team is responsible for all of their own transportation needs.
Who Transports the Prisoners?
According to the website for the Texas Prisoner Transportation Services, each specialist is required to have a minimum of two years experience in either the military, law enforcement or corrections.
Each guard is licensed to carry a handgun and each vehicle is equipped with a 12-gauge shotgun for added security.
What happens next?
KXAN Investigator Brittany Glas spoke to a local legal expert about what Bell County can do to make sure Marks doesn’t escape custody again.
Retired Travis County Judge Charlie Baird says once an escaped inmate is captured, the law enforcement agency who has him or her in custody can put such inmates in segregation in order to prevent such behavior in the future.
“Typically, those are the individuals who have tried to escape. They’re going to make sure that they’re in lockdown. That they’re in their cell 23 out of the 24 hours a day, and that they’re very well under tight scrutiny,” Baird explained. “If the individual tries to escape, the person in charge of his custody would have the means of actually shocking him into submission so that he could not escape.”
He says sheriff’s offices and/or jail staff could also ensure that such an inmate be shackled, handcuffed, have leg irons or electronic belts placed on them, as well.
Baird says people try to escape from jails all the time, but they typically have very low success rates when attempting to do so.
“If they’re going to be successful, it is typically when they are away from the jail structure itself — away from all the guards, away from the fences, away from the dogs and all that,” Baird said, adding that if an inmate is going to try and escape, it is typical to try during transfers.
“The fact that [Marks] made this attempt is not surprising, and the fact that he was successful is surprising. But, it does happen. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in circumstances like this,” he said. “I can see an individual like this — even though his case is set on the court’s docket — not being brought to court, but still housed in segregation so that there’s no attempt to escape, and certainly no possibility of escaping successfully.”
The families of Jenna Scott and Michael Swearingin felt some small sense of peace Monday after Marks escaped custody for several hours.
“It’s still tough to process. We’re still grieving and we’re fortunate that Jenna and Michael were found and that this is going to move forward as a murder case, as it should, and we will seek justice at some point in the future for Jenna and Michael,” Jonathan Scott, Jenna Scott’s father, said.