OXFORD – Former Calhoun County businessman Wendell Blount is back in custody after six months on the run from prison time.
U.S. Marshals said Friday they arrested Blount, 58, in Baton Rouge, La., about 6 p.m. Thursday as he allegedly tried to get away from their Middle Louisiana Fugitive Task Force.
A federal jury in Greenville convicted Blount on April 23 of vehicular manslaughter in the death of Dutch journalist Esther Hageman, who was killed as she rode a bicycle toward Jackson to visit with friends.
The charge had added severity because prosecutors claimed he was driving impaired by morphine. The April 22, 2009, accident occurred on the Natchez Trace Parkway when Blount’s SUV struck Hageman from behind.
As he awaited sentence, Blount took off from monitored house arrest.
U.S. Marshal Jeff Woodfin said his forces have been chasing Blount ever since.
He’ll be returned to the Northern District of Mississippi to be sentenced.
Blount faced up to 33 years in prison. He settled a civil lawsuit with Hageman’s family.
He was on trial five days in April, and his jury deliberated less than three hours before it announced a verdict.
Blount was free on $10,000 bond with the stipulation that he not drive.
In January 2008, Blount reported to federal prison in North Carolina to serve one year and one day after a Texas guilty plea to marijuana possession with intent to distribute.
He was released that November with three years of supervised release to be served, without incident.
But his conviction in the Hageman death changed all that. His supervised release was over and he was scheduled to turn himself in for detention.
If he had done that, he likely would have remained in jail until his sentencing date, and then remained in federal custody until another prison and report date were designated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
“He had nothing to lose by running,” said a law enforcement officer on the chase, who asked not to be identified.
On the weekend he disappeared, local law enforcement said Blount’s vehicle was found parked on the square in Calhoun City.
Contact Patsy Brumfield at (662) 678-1579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal