Court proceedings about escape of inmate to move forward after WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter investigation

Court proceedings about escape of inmate to move forward after WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter investigation
Micheal Hunter told his story to Kentucky State Police, who are now actively investigating a former jailer and captain at the Fulton County Detention Center in far western Kentucky.

FULTON COUNTY, KY (WAVE) - For the first time, a judge has decided to proceed with hearing about a case of inmate who claims he was forced to escape from jail for fear of his life.

WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters first brought Michael Hunter's allegations to light two weeks ago.

Hunter claims his life was threatened at the hands of the jailer, Ricky Parnell and his captain, Daniel Thomas, while in the Fulton County Detention Center. Hunter also claims the men had him beaten by other inmates.

"They threatened to kill me and throw me in a sinkhole and make it look like I escaped if I didn't do what they'd asked," Hunter told WAVE 3 News in an exclusive interview with our Troubleshooter.

In court documents, Hunter states Parnell and Thomas were bringing contraband into the jail and giving it to him to distribute. When Hunter declined on making one last deal, he told us the threats began.

Parnell and Thomas and Hunter's claims are now being investigated by Kentucky State Police.

Hunter escaped from the Fulton County Detention Center in 2016 and made it all the way to Radcliff when KSP caught up to him. Now Hunter's filed what's known as an 11.42, asking for his escape conviction to be overturned because of the alleged threats.

Originally, Hunter was being represented by a public defender but Hunter claims that attorney was fearful of bringing allegations against Parnell. Hunter then started representing himself.

In a motion filed Tuesday, Judge Timothy Langford noted that Hunter had a right to present any evidence showing the first public defender didn't represent him appropriately. Langford granted Hunter another public defender through the Department of Public Advocacy.

Hunter told us he took an officer's body camera to record the jailers in action. Those videos, now under seal, are at the heart of a lawsuit Hunter has filed in federal court. In the suit, Hunter spells out how he tried to use the videos as leverage to be transferred to another jail. But, Hunter says the captain wasn't going to let that happen.

"He said I am going to kill you and I am going to kill myself, and then pointed the gun right at me," Hunter said.

Hunter also told us he was later taken to another cell, where he says the jailer and captain paid other inmates to "beat the living hell" out of him. That's something other inmates corroborated as well.

In a statement for the criminal investigation, one inmate wrote, "I was approached by Captain Daniel Thomas to take a hit on inmate Hunter, not to kill him, but to hurt him bad."

Another inmate wrote Thomas offered to "put some cash on my books if I would beat Michael Hunter up real good."

"It's like something kicked in, survival mode, if you will," Hunter said.

Before the April deadline the jailers had given him and with less than a year to serve on his original sentence, Hunter escaped with the help of two guards.

The judge declined to set an evidentiary hearing about the escape, claiming any potential evidence, like the body camera videos could hurt KSP's criminal investigation. He set a hearing date in February for when the newly appointed public defender can start making their case.

Before the escape, Hunter was serving a 10 year sentence for not paying child support, possession of drugs and running from police.

Thomas and Parnell no longer work at the detention center. The new jailer told us they were gone before he got there and said they now have nothing to do with the allegations.

In a twist, Parnell is back behind bars as a federal inmate. He was convicted in an entirely unrelated case for getting thousands in kickbacks from the jail's expansion.

Attorneys for both Parnell and Thomas have declined previous requests for interviews. The attorneys did tell us their clients did nothing wrong.

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