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updated: 1/17/2014 4:34 PM

Winnebago County investigates prisoner escape

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Associated Press

ROCKFORD -- Northern Illinois officials said they are investigating how a female prisoner managed to steal a Winnebago County sheriff's car this week, prompting a two-hour manhunt.

The 43-year-old Rockford woman managed to steal the squad car around 1 p.m. Thursday, according to a report in the Rockford Register Star.

Authorities say the woman managed to escape while being transported to the Winnebago County Jail -- in handcuffs, sitting in the back seat -- when the deputy who was driving the car stopped for gas.

"There is no way you can talk about this without simply going back and looking at the circumstances involved," said Sheriff Richard Meyers. "What did the prisoner do and what negligence on the part of the officer, if any, allowed the prisoner to get away. She did, it's unacceptable and it shouldn't have happened."

The woman, who was in plain clothes, drove away from the gas station as the deputy ran after her. She ditched the car along a dead-end Rockford street near the gas station. She then got a ride from someone else and eventually was found in a garage.

She's now being held in the Winnebago County jail without bond.

Meyers said an investigation is underway.

"There's a whole lot of issues here," Meyers said. "This is not an equipment issue. There is no other issue than it is the responsibility of the officer for the safekeeping of a prisoner ... and when one gets away, you have to go back and look at the conduct of the officer."

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