Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Escaped Rapist Dug under 2 Fences

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Escaped Rapist Dug under 2 Fences

Article excerpt

Percy Cooksey didn't scale two chain-link fences topped with razor wire to escape from the maximum-security state prison here Saturday morning.

Instead, he clawed through the rain-soaked turf under the fences, then found a pickup with the keys in the ignition on the prison parking lot, a source told the Post-Dispatch.

Cooksey probably cut his hands and arms on the rolls of razor wire coiled along the bottom of the outer fence, said the source, who is close to the investigation. Pieces of gauze-like material that Cooksey wrapped his hands and arms with were found stuck to the razor wire.

The source also said there was a delay of an hour and a half in reporting Cooksey's disappearance. The source confirmed that Cooksey is a carrier of the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

Cooksey, 42, is the first inmate to escape from the 5 1/2-year-old prison. He was serving life-plus-60-years for rape, robbery and other offenses for abducting a woman from a church service and sexually assaulting her in a vacant house in February 1987.

In that incident, Cooksey barged into the Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church at 4114 Natural Bridge Avenue, pulled out a sword and declared himself to be "Shaka Zulu," a 19th-century African king. Before abducting the woman, Cooksey, who has a record of mental illness, ordered the minister to disrobe in front of the congregation.

"Obviously, we consider him a very dangerous character," said St. Louis Police Lt. Col. Ronald Henderson, who is heading the local effort to capture Cooksey.

"He's gone underground, but we're following some very promising leads and we're going to get him. It's just a matter of time."

Although Cooksey has a criminal record in 10 states, Henderson said, authorities believe he is in the St. Louis area. The stolen pickup was found Sunday in the 4900 block of Farlin Avenue near North Kingshighway and Natural Bridge Avenue. …

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