UPDATE: Prison officials hunt escaped murderer
PIKEVILLE, BLEDSOE COUNTY (WRCB) –
Corrections officials had trusted a convicted killer enough to let him work a prison dairy cattle farm barely supervised.
Garland Lee Godsey milked that confidence to escape from the Southeast Tennessee Regional Correctional Facility in Bledsoe County.
Warden Jim Morrow hadn't had one inmate escape in the four years he's overseen the Southeast Tennessee State Regional Correctional Facility.
Until Sunday night.
"It's a surprise because there was no indication of any problem with him," Warden Morrow says.
With 'good time', Garland Lee Godsey, 44, had been seven years away from completing a 25-year sentence for second-degree murder.
He had worked up to the most privileged class of trusty at the 2200-acre prison near Pikeville, the 'dairy' for all facilities in the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
"He fed cattle, hauled it to them on a tractor," Morrow says. "He sometimes hauled away the manure and cleaned up after the dairy operation."
Godsey's work crew included 19 inmates and only two overseers.
Late Sunday afternoon, Corrections officials believe he drove his tractor up a hill at the edge of one field, and hoofed it into the woods.
"Our dogs tracked him from about a quarter mile of where he left the tractor," Morrow says.
Godsey's criminal conviction is enough to make Lee Station resident Brandon Basham "worry, a lot."
Trial testimony indicates Godsey killed acquaintance Eddie Parsons in a drunken rage at a Cumberland County bar.
Witnesses said Godsey drank about a case-and-a-half of beer before knocking Parsons off of a bar stool with a punch to the jaw.
He kicked and stomped Parson's face, and slammed his head on the concrete floor repeatedly.
Parsons reportedly had refused to pay Godsey back $40 owed.
"My girlfriend and step kids, they know where stuff is to protect themselves, I guess," Basham says.
Godsey still has family in Cumberland County.
"His mother passed away recently, so it may have had something to do with it," Morrow says.
Corrections has distributed Godsey's mug shot to police agencies all over Tennessee.
"He couldn't have gotten far in an hour," Morrow says.
"But it's been several hours since then, so there's no indication where he might be now."