Inmate says he was forced to escape jail to save his life

Inmate sparks state police investigation into claims he had to escape jail to survive

LA GRANGE, KY (WAVE) - His story sounds like something right out of a Hollywood movie plot. A Kentucky inmate said he had no choice but to escape jail for fear the men in charge would end his life.

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 southern Kentucky.

Hunter was serving a 10-year sentence for not paying child support, possession of drugs and running from police. He was at the Fulton County Detention Center when he met Deputy Jailer Ricky Parnell and Captain Daniel Thomas.

Hunter said the men were bringing contraband into the jail and giving it to him to distribute.

In 2018, Hunter said the men gave him an April deadline to deliver one more big deal, but when he refused to cooperate, things changed.

“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.

“Did you believe him?” WAVE 3 News asked.

“One hundred percent,” Hunter said.

Hunter decided he had to make a move to survive.

He said 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 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 he said 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 said he was later taken to another cell, where he said the jailer and captain paid other inmates to “beat the living hell” out of him.

That’s something other inmates corroborated.

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.

Hunter made it close to home in Radcliff before KSP tracked him down. This time he would be sentenced to five years for escape, a conviction he’s now trying to get overturned.

"I'm just hoping this time that the system will do what it's supposed to do," he said.

Captain Thomas and Parnell no longer work at the detention center. The new jailer told WAVE 3 News they were gone before he got there, and said the jail now has nothing to do with the allegations.

But in a twist, Parnell is now a federal inmate. He was convicted in an unrelated case for getting thousands of dollars in kickbacks from the jail’s expansion.

Hunter is now at Luther Luckett in LaGrange, a prison run by the Department of Corrections, completely separate from the locally operated Fulton County Detention Center where Hunter said his story took place.

He is waiting for a judge’s decision on whether to set him free.

“I have an opportunity to get this story out there and show the reality of what was really going on,” Hunter said.

Hunter has been representing himself. The Public Advocacy Office was asked to appoint a Public Defender on Dec. 13.

The Commonwealth Attorney’s office in Fulton County said they turned all the information regarding Hunter’s accusations against Parnell and Thomas to Kentucky State Police. KSP confirmed to WAVE 3 News they currently have an active investigation on the men in relation to Hunter’s claims.

WAVE 3 News reached out to Parnell’s attorney, Michael Lee, to ask for an interview. He declined on Parnell’s behalf and did not comment on the case other than to say they’ve denied the allegations made by Hunter. Lee also said they expect the case’s outcome to show the allegations are not true. He declined to comment on KSP’s investigation.

We reached out to Daniel Thomas’s attorney, John Soyars, who said they too deny any wrongdoing in relation to Hunter’s accusations. They also declined an interview.

Hunter has another hearing in mid January.

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