A newspaper official in Greene County recently picked up a stranger who asked for a ride in front of his house.
It’s something some people do as a good deed from time to time.
But the stranger wasn’t an ordinary person down on his luck.
It was Michael “Pretty Boy Floyd” Wilson, a twice-convicted killer who had just escaped from the South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville on July 5. Floyd was serving two terms of life in prison for the 2014 killings of two men in Biloxi and Gulfport who had tried to help him out. And he was serving time for other crimes.
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Wilson had scaled the prison fence, injuring himself, but reportedly was able to talk people into helping him out after his escape. Prison staff noticed him missing about 12:48 p.m., according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
Russell Turner, editor and publisher of the Greene County Herald, briefly wrote about his experience with Floyd in an opinion piece published Monday.
Wilson is now housed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, the MDOC inmate website shows.
George County officials had confirmed that an elderly woman gave Wilson a ride to an area near the Lucedale Walmart after his escape. They said he told the woman he needed a ride to go see his wife, who was in a hospital. Officials at the time had said a second person had given Floyd a ride.
It’s unclear if Wilson is even married.
Turner says the man he picked up wanted a ride to the Greene County Hospital in Leakesville.
Wilson, who has a lengthy criminal background, was on the lam three days until Jackson County deputies, acting on a tip, found him getting in a car on Sunnyside Drive in the Jackson County community of St. Martin. The area is near D’Iberville, where officials first believed Wilson was heading.
Turner wrote that the more important issue than it being him who picked up Wilson is that staffing issues at the prison need to be addressed.
“From all accounts, a bare minimum, skeleton crew runs the prison most days with many guard positions being covered by staff from other departments or just not staffed at all,” Turner wrote.
He is calling on Greene County officials and the public to demand that state lawmakers address the prison staff shortage and security issues.
The prison was built as a 500-bed, minimum security prison, but on the day Wilson escaped, the prison population was 3,038 inmates, Turner wrote.
SMCI has the capacity for 3,282 inmates and has 515 full-time employees and part-time and contract jobs are available, the prison website says.
“My view now is that if state officials are not going to commit to making sure the facility is adequately staffed and the people who work there are fairly compensated and supported, then it is time to shut it down or drastically scale back its mission (and inmate population),” Turner said.
And Turner said he’s relieved it wasn’t his wife or daughter who “stumbled upon Floyd. ... Floyd was desperate and dangerous and this could have certainly had many different, tragic outcomes.”
Retired Biloxi Police Detective Steve Schlicht, who had developed a rapport with Wilson while working on his criminal cases, had sent a message to Wilson via the Sun Herald, asking that Wilson contact him so a safe solution could be reached for his return to prison.
Schlicht said he was relieved that Wilson chose “to let people live.”
Facebook had been abuzz with sightings of Wilson, which proved to not be true.
MDOC is still investigating his escape. No details have been released on how he managed to reach the perimeter fence or how he came up with clothes to replace his prison uniform.
There’s also still no explanation for how Wilson picked up the nickname Pretty Boy Floyd, a name given to Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, an American bank robber in the 1920s who was gunned down by the FBI in 1934.
Schlicht said he never asked Wilson how he got the nickname.
“It was apparently a nickname or an alias listed on prior criminal records long before we had contact with him,” Biloxi Police Maj. Christopher De Back said.