Jail escapees rob teens of clothes, take bike in effort to get away

by: Frank Field Updated:

ENUMCLAW, Wash. - Two inmates who escaped from the jail in Enumclaw Wednesday night are back behind bars, but not before a few hours on the loose, when they attacked some teenagers and stole their clothes.

Enumclaw Police say the pair, 25-year-old Danny Lee Phelps and 21-year-old Joseph Michael Zelepula, were on a work crew, painting inside the police department, when they slipped away from the jail guard and walked right out the front door of the police station around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

A short time later, the pair ambushed a couple of teenagers walking home for the night.

“I didn’t even know what to think they just came out of nowhere,” said 17-year-old Mitch Towne.  Watch interview with teen victims

Towne and his friend, Joey Deters, said the inmates attacked them, stole a cellphone and forced them to swap clothing so the inmates could escape more readily.

“He just kind of hit met three, four times good,” said Deters.  “And then he kind of grabbed my head and tried hitting me with his knees and stuff.”

Zelepula was collared around 11:30 p.m. with help from a Kent Police Department canine. 

Phelps was found about 1:30 a.m.   Police said he’d stolen a bicycle and tried to ride off, but the King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter spotted him in front of a grocery store about a half-mile from the police station, where he was arrested.

Enumclaw’s police are going to review how they decide which inmates are allowed out of their cells on work details. And they’re investigating how the guard watching the inmates lost track of them.

 “We are looking into the status of that to make sure we’re doing the right thing as well, and properly overseeing the inmates,” Enumclaw police Captain Bob Huebler, said.

The two inmates had been jailed on misdemeanor charges.

Zelepula was serving a 60-day sentence for attempted theft and driving on a suspended license. Phelps was serving 305 days for drug charges. But now the duo is looking at potential felony charges – escape, assault and robbery – that could land them in state prison.