Deputies from the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois were able capture escaped prisoner Daniel Ethan Rice last Wednesday, with some rather unique assistance. Police said the escapee would have continued to elude them if not for a pack of coyotes. According to The Muscatine Journal, the 21-year-old inmate of Muscatine County Jail in Iowa was taken to a nearby hospital for a medical emergency last Monday when he escaped. Dressed only in a hospital gown, Rice was able to pull his hand out of the handcuffs that bound him and slip past the transport officer. Once out of the hospital, Rice took refuge within the densely-forested Loud Thunder Forest Preserve.
However, Rice found that his escape did not end there. After leading officers on a foot chase across state lines, the escapee found himself in the preserve without any supplies and naked after the gown he was wearing came off during the chase. KLJB reported that Rice eventually contacted his wife, identified as Samantha May, who joined him in the preserve. The reunion did not last long, however, and on Wednesday the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from Rice under a false name. The fugitive described being chased by a pack of coyotes. The pack, which Rice estimated to be between 20 and 30 animals, was never found, but the inmate was. When deputies arrived at the location that Rice gave, he and his wife were identified and taken into custody.
It is not currently known if Rice or his wife sustained any injuries in the preserve, but both are now back in Muscatine. Rice, who was incarcerated on charges of theft, criminal mischief, and burglary, is being held on a $50,000 bond. Escaping from custody, which is a felony, has been since added to that list.
As for the coyotes, wildlife experts stated that the population near the preserve has been growing steadily. The city of Muscatine recently approved a measure to hunt the predators within city limits. Despite the increased number of sightings, officials say there have been no instance of a coyote attack in the city.
“We don’t know of any problems. We’ve never had any documented attack or along those lines,” said Iowa Conservation Officer Jeff Harrison.
In this one case, however, it seems that the coyotes have helped to bring a fugitive to justice.
Image courtesy National Park Service