Escaped convict caught on Day 7 of New Jersey manhunt
By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – After a weeklong manhunt, an escapee from a prison unit of a New Jersey psychiatric hospital was taken into custody on Monday in the state’s desolate Pine Barrens wilderness.
Arthur Buckel, 38, was under arrest in a forested area west of the Garden State Parkway near Lacey Township on the edge of the Pine Barrens, said New Jersey State Police and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office.
“They got him in the woods,” said a spokesman for the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, which tweeted a photograph of Buckel with his wrists handcuffed behind him surrounded by uniformed law enforcement officers.
Buckel was two weeks away from parole when he disappeared on Tuesday from a minimum security unit at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Hammonton, about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Lacey Township. He was serving three years for aggravated assault, drug possession and burglary, after previously serving time for manslaughter in the killing of a 10-month-old baby.
The Pine Barrens, a sparsely populated coastal plain known for its scruffy pygmy pine trees, is located about 80 miles (129 km) south of New York City.
Featured on the HBO hit series “The Sopranos” and in the writings of Pulitzer Prize-winner John McPhee, the Pine Barrens has long been known as a refuge for fugitives and anyone looking to operate out of law enforcement’s sights.
Buckel was apprehended hours after he failed to turn himself in to police as he had promised at the parkway’s Forked River Rest Area on Sunday night. Family members had negotiated his surrender, but shortly before state police arrived, he walked off, Lacey Township police said in a statement.
Buckel, who appears clean shaven on security video from the rest stop, left on foot but it was not known whether he eventually entered a vehicle, police said.
On Monday morning, extra patrols were underway at school bus stops and during arrival times at nearby schools. The search for Buckel entailed a half dozen local municipalities, New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Department of Corrections, said state police Sergeant First Class Gregory Williams.
No further details were available. A corrections department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Frank McGurty and Alan Crosby)