news 5 days ago

Prison transport firm closing after escape, cites insurance

The Associated Press — By JAKE BLEIBERG - Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — A private prisoner transport company has announced its closure after an MMA fighter accused in two killings escaped this month from one of its vans while being escorted to a jail in Texas.

Texas Prisoner Transportation Services told Bell County officials in an email last week that it would "begin to wrap up its business affairs and cease operations" on Sunday.

"Unfortunately, new insurance rates have forced us to evaluate our business and conclude that we simply can't continue to operate," CEO Ryan Whitten wrote in an email sent two days after the escape of Cedric Marks prompted a multi-agency manhunt.

The email, which was provided to The Associated Press by Ammy James, an assistant auditor for the Bell County Auditor Office, makes no mention of Marks getting loose from a van that had stopped at a McDonald's near Houston Feb. 3.

"We realize this decision will create a burden for your prisoner transport operations and as we transition you may continue to place orders with TPTS and we will transition you over to alternative transport companies to fulfill your transport needs," Whitten wrote.

On Monday, no one answered a call to the company's main phone line, and an assistant to Whitten did not respond to a phone message seeking clarification on the status of the company's operations.

The company, based in Thrall, Texas, has not answered questions about the escape and police have not explained how Marks managed to get loose while wearing leg, hand and belly restraints.

The 44-year-old middleweight fighter was arrested in Michigan last month on a burglary charge in Bell County, 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Austin, and was being extradited there when he escaped. He was recaptured after about nine hours and was jailed in Bell County on a more than $1.75 million bond.

The same day he escaped, Marks was charged with capital murder in the killings of his ex-girlfriend, Jenna Scott, and her friend, Michael Swearingin. The pair had been missing from their Texas home for more than a week when their bodies were found in a shallow grave in Clearview, Oklahoma, on Jan. 15.

Marks has denied any role in their deaths and told TV station KPRC2 that he was not trying to escape the prison van. He didn't explain how he got free.