Police: Nurse assistant helped inmate escape with hidden key
McKeesport, Pa. — A prisoner who managed to take off his handcuffs and flee a hospital despite being shackled to his bed was aided by a nursing assistant who hid a handcuff key in a tissue, prosecutors say.
Michele Sims, 47, was arraigned Monday on charges of hindering apprehension and other offenses in Alexander Erb’s Oct. 12 escape from UPMC McKeesport, about 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Sims, whose stepchildren are Erb’s cousins, also loosened compression devices on his legs, police said. The Port Vue woman is jailed on $5,000 bail pending a Nov. 9 hearing.
Online court records don’t list a lawyer to comment on the charges.
In a statement, UPMC said: “Any allegation of illegal behavior by an employee is intolerable and unacceptable, and this will be dealt with appropriately.”
Erb, 26, eluded authorities for more than 16 hours before they found him hiding under a bed with a teenage girl at a home about 2 miles away. He is charged with resisting arrest and possessing an instrument of crime — the key.
Erb was originally arrested in a domestic dispute and transferred to the custody of the Allegheny County sheriff’s office because he was wanted on an arrest warrant in another jurisdiction. He was to be transferred once he was discharged.
But police said he swallowed 20 bags of heroin in an apparent suicide attempt, so he was hospitalized and placed under 24-hour watch by nurses and a sheriff’s deputy.
Police said Sims tucked the key in a tissue and passed it to Erb between two boxes of candy. Erb used the key to unlock his handcuffs and asked a nurse to adjust the thermostat, putting her in the deputy’s path, police said.
Erb waited until the nurse was between the deputy and the door of his hospital room before jumping off the bed and running away, police said.
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