RICHMOND, Mo. — A Benton County, Missouri, man is back in federal custody after authorities say he escaped from the Phelps County jail wearing a deputy’s clothing.
It was a concerning situation for investigators with that 33-year-old inmate previously charged for threatening to shoot immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border as well as any federal authorities who tried to stop him.
The suspect spent only a short time in Ray County following his arrest on Sunday before FBI agents took him up to Caldwell County for more secure detention.
Authorities in Phelps County said the inmate ‘compromised the structural integrity of his cell’ which led to his escape. He was last seen wearing a shirt with the Phelps County logo along with deputy-style tan pants with a brown stripe down the side.
But the escape culminated at a literal end of the road.
The pavement ends before you get onto Bollinger Road, a bumpy path that operates like a one lane trail.
That was the way Johnathan O’Dell chose on Sunday, spotted in a stolen truck in Ray County following his escape.
Ray County Sheriff Scott Childers said he suspected O’Dell might come to the area as the inmate is named in an local order of protection.
“I actually blocked the road with my vehicle. Got out on the other side, had my gun drawn,” Childers said.
“When I pulled the car sideways, I’m thinking, ‘OK, I want to be behind the engine so if he starts shooting, I’ve got good cover,'” Childers said.
Childers said the thoughts came knowing O’Dell’s background detailed in a federal indictment with actions including recruiting for a militant group, getting arrested following a shoot-out in 2022 with FBI agents, and getting charged for a conspiracy to kill.
According to the indictment, O’Dell and a partner planned they “would travel to the United States-Mexico border in the state of Texas and use firearms to shoot at illegal immigrants crossing the border.”
The indictment also details plans he “would use firearms at, and murder officers and employees of the United States Border Patrol, who would attempt to stop the defendants from shooting at immigrants.”
The list of some of the items found following the stand-off with FBI agents included six Firearms, 23 filled magazines, 1,770 rounds of ammunition, two sets of body armor, two sniper rests, and two gas masks.
Childers says he mentally prepared himself for violence.
“I really did think there would be a shootout. I figured he was armed. If he stole a vehicle, he probably got his hands on a gun or knew someone here who could supply him a gun, or a militant friend who he’s with,” Childers said.
“Now luckily I had about 20 cars behind me. I think there was a big intimidation factor, not just me,” Childers said.
The pursuit ended as a tense traffic stop with O’Dell arrested, found without a weapon. More charges related to the escape are now expected in addition to the 44 counts he currently faces.
According to a news release from Phelps County authorities, a second inmate also escaped with O’Dell. That person turned himself in quickly and prosecutors expect to bring charges against that person as well.