By Tia Lynn Ivey
Swarms of law enforcement agents descended upon Madison Tuesday afternoon in a massive manhunt for two escaped prison inmates wanted for murder. As of press time on Tuesday, June 13, the pursuit was ongoing for these men who are considered armed and dangerous. According to authorities, Ricky Dubose, 24, and Donnie Russell Rowe, 43, are accused of killing two correctional officers during an escape attempt from a state prison transfer bus early Tuesday morning. The pair reportedly took over the bus during a prison transport, disarmed the officers aboard before one of the inmates shot and killed both officers, Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue. Monica and Billue were the only two law enforcement agents on the bus. The bus was traveling on Georgia Highway 16 in the eastern part of Putnam County, near the Hancock County line at the time of the incident, approximately 6:45 a.m. According to Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, the escaped inmates fled the scene, hijacking a 2004 “grass green” Honda Civic with the license plate RBJ-6601 from a local man stopped nearby, driving off westward toward Eatonton and armed with the slain officers’ 9 mm pistols.
“They are dangerous beyond description,” said Sills during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “If anyone sees them or comes into contact, they need to call 911 immediately…My biggest worry is that they are going to kill someone else.”
Early Tuesday morning, The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department joined in on the widespread manhunt before it was discovered the two men arrived in Madison. “We have a real mess here,” said Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley. “Our department is going to do everything we can.”
The pair broke into a residence on Cox Road, reportedly ransacking the premises, showering, eating, stealing clothes and leaving behind their white prison uniforms. The City of Madison Police Department joined in on the search then, too. From there, multiple sightings of the wanted men were reported to law enforcement agencies. Multiple helicopters and dozens of law enforcement vehicles from the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Georgia State Patrol (GSP) and our local police department surrounded Hill Park on Main Street, and Family Dollar, Happy China and Napa Auto Parts on Eatonton Road before expanding the search to Brownwood Road. According to Sills, two men who fit the description of the fugitives walked into Madison’s Family Dollar, less than a mile away from where they committed the burglary on Cox Road. “That’s what led us there,” said Sills, who held a press conference in the Lowe’s parking lot in Madison at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening.
Sills noted that no one has reported having personal contact with the suspects since the car-hijacking. Authorities are unsure whether or not Dubose and Rowe are loose on foot or still using the Honda Civic. “We have no reason to believe they split up,” said Sills. “But we do not know where they are now.”
“My concern is apprehending these people and prosecuting them for murder,” added Sills, who announced a $60,000 reward for the suspects. Sills also revealed Dubose has a prior arrest in Madison “many years ago,” but doesn’t believe either of the men have family here. Sills confirmed that Dubose is a member of the Ghostface Gangsters, a white-power gang associated with the Aryan Brotherhood.
Sills was visibly emotional recounting the events of the day.
“I saw two brutally murdered corrections officers, that’s what I saw,” he said. “I have their blood on my shoes.”
Sills delivered the brief up date Tuesday evening, cutting off questions from reporters.
“All right guys, we gotta go hunt,” closed Sills.
FBI agent Stephen Emmett warned the public in a press statement to contact law enforcement immediately if the inmates are spotted and to not approach them. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections website, Dubose received a sentence up to 20 years after he was convicted for armed robbery, aggravated assault and theft in 2014. He had a previous record of theft and identity fraud in cases from August 2010. Rowe, who is nicknamed “Whiskey,” received a sentence up to life in prison for armed robbery and aggravated assault in a 2001 case.
Rowe, a white male in his 40s, stands 6-foot-1 with brown hair and blue eyes. He weighs about 180 pounds.
Dubose is a white male, about 6-foot-1 and weighs about 140 pounds. Dubose also has distinct tattoos on his forehead above his eyebrows and across his neck. The neck tattoo reads “Always.”
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, the officers killed Tuesday morning were longtime employees at the Baldwin State Prison in Hardwick, Georgia. Officer Monica served for 8 years and Billue was approaching his 10th anniversary. According to The Georgia Department of Corrections, the officers were following protocol with one driving and the other sitting in the front passenger seat, separated from prisoners by a locked gate. Officials believe the gate was either mistakenly left unlocked or the inmates somehow unlocked it. The bus was carrying 33 inmates. Rowe and Dubose locked the remaining 31 inmates in the bus and fled the scene.
Authorities are asking the public to remain vigilant in helping to locate the armed and dangerous fugitives as the search resumed Tuesday evening across the state after the trail in Madison went cold. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal expressed his condolences and commitment apprehending Dubose and Rowe.
“Today, two families lost everything in a heinous and senseless act of violence perpetrated at the hands of cowards,” said Deal in a statement. “Our heartbreak is matched only in our resolve to bring their murderers to justice. No effort will be spared in pursuit of the killers, and no state resources required in this endeavor will be spared.”