Officials ready to return Blount to state

By PATSY BRUMFIELD / NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Escapee Wendell Blount, arrested after nearly six months on the lam, could be back in north Mississippi by Nov. 11.
Blount, 58, took off his electronic monitor May 14 at his home and then fled, three weeks after a federal jury in Greenville convicted him of driving his SUV into Dutch journalist Esther Hageman and killing her as she rode a bicycle south toward Jackson.
The April 22, 2009, accident occurred in Chickasaw County on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is federal jurisdiction.
Compounding the vehicular manslaughter charges was Blount’s alleged impairment by morphine, which he said was for chronic pain.
Blount was captured about 6 p.m. Thursday in Baton Rouge, La.
“We’ve been working on this for a while,” said Chris Felix, supervisory inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service’s Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force.
Felix said Blount, a former businessman and ex-con, “had a friend hiding him out, assisting him.”
The Middle Louisiana Fugitive Task Force, he said, had known that Blount was in Baton Rouge most of the time since he left Calhoun County, but it took what Felix termed “a cooperating source” in the Louisiana capital to pinpoint him.
“We knew he was there,” Felix noted, “Just no one could put their fingers on him.”
Blount likely will return to the region before Nov. 11, Felix speculated, saying he could be back as early as Wednesday.
Additional charges are expected in connection with to Blount’s foray with freedom.
Last week, federal authorities considered the best means to return Blount to Oxford, especially because he reportedly is in very poor health.
They may fly him to Memphis and drive him to Oxford, or they may take him by ground all the way, said Scotty Peterson on Friday.
Then, Blount will have a date with U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr., who has discretion to sentence him up to 33 years in prison for Hageman’s death.
It’s unclear whether Blount will need a new attorney. Soon after his conviction, he asked Pepper to allow him to request a new trial without going through his trial lawyers. Pepper said no.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.