County jail inmate caught trying to escape

OKEECHOBEE — A man being held on several felony charges including armed burglary and aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer can now add one felony count of escape to his list of charges.

Besides the escape charge Mark J. Saunders, 34, Tucker Lane, was arrested Thursday, May 12, on felony charges of an inmate in possession of contraband and criminal mischief totaling $1,000 or more.

He will continue to be held in the Okeechobee County Jail without bond.

Mark J. Saunders, 34

Mark J. Saunders, 34

Damage to jail cell wall.

Damage to jail cell wall.

The new charges were filed after detention deputies reportedly found Saunders was apparently trying to escape by digging a hole through the concrete block wall of his cell in A-Pod.

“The hole was located above where Saunders’ head rests at night,” stated an arrest report by Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) Deputy JoAnn Henderson. “There were multiple photographs being held in place by toothpaste covering the escape hole.”

Detention deputies also recovered several items of contraband in the man’s cell. Those items included: six pieces of metal from the his bed; two metal shanks; nail clippers; a lighter; a battery; a bleach container; concrete wall grindings in a plastic bag; and, an unknown substance in a powdered drink packet.contraband in jail cell

Saunders is the only inmate being held in cell A-56.

Saunders was already being held on a litany of charges stemming from a May 12, 2015, set of events that began with him allegedly burglarizing the home of a former OCSO deputy around 2:35 p.m. He allegedly took an OCSO polo shirt, a hat and a bulletproof vest from that home.

That deputy is currently working for the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and was not home at the time.

Saunders then reportedly went across the street and entered another home.

When a 47-year-old man confronted him, Saunders allegedly pulled a handgun and demanded the keys to a blue Ford F-250 pickup truck parked in the driveway of that home.

Once he had the keys, he left. No one inside that home was injured.

OCSO deputies later engaged Saunders in a high-speed chase on U.S. 441 N. that continued onto S.R. 68 East. That chase at speeds nearing 100 mph reportedly ended when Saunders turned onto a private drive at the Triple S. Ranch.

It was here that Saunders reportedly made an abrupt U-turn and was now facing OCSO Deputy Lieutenant Lester Yeates and Deputy Sergeant Shane Snyder.

Saunders then allegedly drove straight toward Lt. Yeates and rammed head-on into the lieutenant’s department-issued F-150 pickup. Saunders then used the larger three-quarter pickup to push the half-ton F-150 backward some 15-feet-10-inches, stated OCSO arrest reports.

The two deputies pulled their handguns and began firing at the blue pickup until Saunders gave up without further incident, continued the reports.

Lt. Yeates sustained some minor abrasions and minor whiplash. Neither Sgt. Snyder nor Saunders were injured.

Prior to Thursday’s arrest, Saunders was being held without bond on charges of burglary of a dwelling while armed, home invasion robbery with a firearm, grand theft-auto, robbery with a firearm, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer, possession of a bulletproof vest and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Department of Corrections (DOC) records show Saunders has been in and out of prison several times since 2006. His most recent stint came in 2008 when he was convicted locally of grand theft-firearm, grand theft and possession of a firearm/ammunition by a convicted felon.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison, but was released Sept. 16, 2014.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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