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Police search for escapee

A state prison inmate stole a pickup truck and fled from a work detail near Thomson on Monday morning. The inmate escape led to an air and ground search in both McDuffie and Warren counties.

He remained at large late Monday.

McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Major Ronnie Williamson identified the suspect as Tommy Ray Woodruff, 30, of the Flowery Branch area of Cherokee County, Ga. The inmate, who has an extensive criminal history, is described as white, standing 6-4 and weighing 165 pounds, with short brown hair, green eyes, was last seen driving a 2006 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck south along Main Street in Thomson.

The truck belongs to the McDuffie County Roads and Bridges Department. It was stolen from a work detail on Viola Avery Street about 10:45 a.m. Monday, according to McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Investigator Larry Adaway. Mr. Woodruff, an inmate at the Pre-Release Center in Wilkes County, had been working along side other inmates cleaning manholes along Viola Avery Street in the Cherokee neighborhood.

Details concerning exactly how the inmate made off with the county-owned truck remained unclear Monday afternoon.

"We're more concerned with capturing him right now," Investigator Adaway said.

Mr. Woodruff had most recently been convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, possession of methamphetamine and forgery in the first degree, Maj. Williamson said.

Troopers with the Georgia State Patrol post in Grovetown joined deputies in McDuffie and Warren counties in search of the escaped inmate. A GSP helicopter from Gainesville also was used.

Once Mr. Woodruff is caught, he faces charges of escape, theft of a motor vehicle and government interference, Maj. Williamson said.

Anyone with information about the inmate's whereabouts is asked to contact their nearest law enforcement agency. Those in the Thomson area can call 911 or 706-595-2040.

Web posted on Thursday, July 22, 2010

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