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Manhunt Continues For Escaped WI Murder Suspect

by

VAN BUREN, Ark. (Midwest Communications) - A manhunt continues for a Wisconsin murder suspect who escaped from custody in Arkansas while being transported to Waukesha to face charges.

Police in Van Buren Arkansas said 26-year-old Justin Welch stabbed a guard, stole his gun, shot at a second guard, and stole the transport van. It happened early Wednesday at an Interstate rest area. Welch was arrested in San Diego in November for a murder in Oconomowoc on October 1st. Authorities said a man hired Welch to kill Kimberly Smith, who was in a bitter court battle with the man over the custody of their 4-year-old son.

Welch was 1 of 5 prisoners being transported by the North Atlantic Expedition Service, a private firm from Mississippi. They stopped so they could use a restroom. Police said Welch somehow got a screwdriver-like tool which he used to stab the first guard. They said he also robbed a truck driver in the restroom, stole his jacket and cell phone, and handcuffed him to the other prisoners. He also allegedly handcuffed the injured guard, and told everyone to stay in the restroom before he ran to the van. There, the second guard apparently ran off after seeing that Welch had a gun. Welch was said to fire a number of shots at the driver as he was fleeing.

A warrant in Arkansas charged Welch with escape, attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, battery, and theft.

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