Manson Brown, who escaped from the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater on Friday night, had just been indicted on new charges stemming from a 1996 home invasion and rape in Cambridge. The Department of Corrections believes Brown may have heard about the new indictments through the media before it could reclassify his status.
When an inmate escaped from the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater on Friday night, Kathy Brady got an automatic call warning her of the escape.
The telephone was answered by one of her daughters. The 16-year-old was having a sleepover with several friends when the late-night telephone message informed them of the missing inmate.
“I heard them screaming,” Brady said. “They all ran up and they jumped on my bed and they said, ‘There’s a prisoner who escaped.’ Then they went around and locked all the doors. They actually locked the windows and put chairs under the doorknobs.”
The teenagers were anxious, but Brady said the proximity of the prison complex and the possibility of escapes doesn’t worry her much.
“It never happens,” Brady said. “The last time was six or seven years ago. They found the inmate walking down Summer Street in the morning when the school buses were out.”
Based on the inmate’s record, however, the teens may have been right to be cautious.
Manson Brown, 51, was convicted in 2005 of home invasion and armed robbery and was serving a 10-year sentence.
And he had just been indicted, based on DNA evidence, on new charges stemming from a 1996 home invasion and rape in Cambridge.
The Department of Corrections believes Brown may have heard about the new indictments through the media before it could reclassify his status.
He is described as a black man, 5 foot 8 inches tall, weighing 145 pounds. He was last seen wearing gray sweatpants, a white T-shirt, and a blue denim coat issued by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. His last known address was Mattapan.
Anna Marie Nakouzi heard the sirens first, from her home on Green Street, 3 miles away.
“When you have kids, you kind of worry,” Nakouzi said Saturday as state, county and local police continued to search for Brown.
But many residents of Bridgewater were taking news of the escape in stride on Saturday.
On the town common, volunteers from the Bridgewater Lions Club were busy stringing Christmas lights.
“He’s on a plane to Florida right now,” said Al Hoffman, whose Middleboro home is within 2 miles of the prison.
“If he shows up here, he’s going to work,” added Tom Carlson of Bridgewater.
Shopping at the Hidden Treasures consignment shop, Laura Rizvi said she was not aware a prisoner had escaped, but wasn’t concerned, either.
“I’ve been waiting for this to happen for as long as I’ve been in Bridgewater,” said Rizvi. “When I first moved here I thought (the prison) would be a good tax base for us, and the college too. I thought it would help keep our real estate taxes down. I have a girlfriend who works at the prison as well.”
On Summerdale Farms Way, a cul-de-sac about a mile from the correctional complex, resident Allan Chiocca, the Rockland town administrator, said neighbors will keep their house lights on, but otherwise aren’t too concerned.
“Are we a little more cautious? Yes,” said Chiocca. “But typically they find the person a long way away from Bridgewater. There’s a plan. Very few people just walk out. … The neighbors and I make sure the houses are well lit and the alarms are on. Maybe we’re more cautious of bumps and crashes and noises in the night.”
Some homes on South Street are even closer to the prison than his own, Chiocca said.
“With all the forests and the marsh and the brush and brambles, unless (prisoners) really wanted to come here, they’d have a hard time finding us,” said Chiocca.
His neighbor, Kevin Pearce, said he wasn’t aware there had been an escape. He was in Plymouth on Friday night and missed the automated call.
“When it first happens, people get all nervous,” Pearce said. “A few hours later, they don’t worry. It dies down.”
Brown “was last seen at the facility at 5:40 p.m.,” said Christopher Fallon, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. “There’s a 6:30 p.m. major count and that’s when he came up missing.”
The DOC sent out a phone alert shortly after the man escaped, the sirens were sounded between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. to alert neighbors, and the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department sent out a reverse 911 call to all Bridgewater residents, putting them on alert around 10 p.m.
Police say the alerts generated several phone calls, and were helpful since the public is “our eyes and ears” but produced no results.
On Saturday afternoon, a helicopter was used to fly over the complex and the surrounding area.
“Our focus right now is on the community to make sure that, if he’s still in the area, he is apprehended as soon as possible. We have to make that assumption for the community’s sake,” said Lt. Christopher Delmonte of the Bridgewater Police Department. “That will remain our priority until we get evidence that he has left the area.”
The Massachusetts Department of Corrections’ Fugitive Apprehension Unit and Bridgewater Police Department set up checkpoints and roving patrols throughout town on Friday and Saturday, and additional K-9 teams and manpower were brought in to police the area.
Brown was convicted in 2005 and was sentenced to 10 years. He spent 15 months in a maximum security setting before being classified as medium security risk and transferred to the OCCC in Bridgewater.
He was housed in the facility’s medium security prison until July 2009, when he was reclassified as a minimum security inmate and transferred to OCCC’s minimum security unit. Brown’s progression through the security levels is considered normal, according to the Department of Corrections. He would have been eligible for parole in October 2012.
Last week, however, Brown was indicted by the Middlesex County grand jury for a 1996 Cambridge home invasion and rape.
The indictment was made possible by a match of Brown’s DNA, which was obtained following his 2005 conviction.
Officials from DOC and the district attorney’s office met Saturday to review the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident, and identified the anomaly to the system regarding notification.
Officials will now take additional steps in any future cases that may trigger media coverage.
Vicki-Ann Downing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.