Fugitive caught in Panama City

Published 2:48 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Earl Marvin Tillman III

A man who escaped from the Decatur County Jail last Thursday was captured in Panama City Beach, Fla., on Friday evening, Sheriff Wiley Griffin said.

Twenty-four-year-old Earl Marvin Tillman III, also known as “Matt,” was arrested by Bay County (Fla.) Sheriff’s deputies after a brief foot chase and “scuffle” when he attempted to evade arrest, Sheriff Griffin said.

Last week, Tillman was being held at the Decatur County Jail for a probation violation—he had failed to pay a court-ordered fine, according to Griffin.

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However, Griffin said Tillman was also classified as a trustee and assigned to deliver food from the County Farm, around the corner from the Sheriff’s Office on Airport Road, back to the county jail.

“He went missing from his work assignment last Thursday and we began hunting for him immediately,” Griffin said. “We got a tip he was located in the area of Memorial Hospital and began looking around there with the help of tracking dogs from the Apalachee Correctional Institute in Sneads, Fla.”

The search dogs tracked Tillman to the Selman Place apartments on Gordon Avenue, behind the hospital, but lost the trail there on Thursday night, the Sheriff said.

The next morning, someone reported their car, a 1996 Buick Century, was stolen from Selman Place. After working with informants and developing leads, Sheriff’s deputies concluded Tillman may have gone to Panama City Beach.

In the late daylight hours of Friday, Bay County Sheriff’s deputies located Tillman at a residence on the eastern end of Panama City Beach. Tillman ran from deputies, crossing over a golf course and into an amusement park. The deputies finally had to use a Taser electric shock weapon to get the fugitive to stop.

Tillman is currently being held at the Bay County Jail, where he awaits extradition back to Decatur County after he is prosecuted for felony obstruction in Panama City Beach, according to Sheriff Griffin.

The car reported stolen from Selman Place in Bainbridge was found over the weekend at Club LaVela in Panama City Beach and investigators believe Tillman drove it there, the sheriff said.

Ironically, last Thursday was not the first time the Sheriff’s Office has had to request the help of search dogs to find Tillman, Sheriff Griffin said. In August 2009, Tillman escaped from a deputy’s patrol car after he was taken into custody during a traffic stop. Several days later, a deputy spotted him in the Vada community and the ACI search dogs were used to flush him out of the woods so that deputies could apprehend him.