Tips coming in as Martinsville City Jail inmate remains on the loose

Dekey Penn, 33, walked away from his work detail Wednesday

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Dekey Penn, 33, was riding on the back of a garbage truck near the intersection of Fayette and Beaver Street Wednesday collecting trash.

Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper said when the truck stopped to pick up some trash, Penn took off.

"He's been in our facility several times over the years. Never given us any problems. A lot of just short stays," Draper said.

According to Draper, Penn was in jail for violating his probation from a child endangerment case in which he was charged with biting a child on the back.

"Dekey, the best thing to do is come on back in and turn yourself in," Draper said. "It's a whole lot easier on you. You haven't done anything that would cause a whole lot of problems for you at this point."

Despite Penn walking away, the sheriff's office is not going to shut down the garbage truck work detail.

Draper said the city cannot afford to give up the thousands of dollars a year the inmates save it in labor costs.

Thomas Niblett lives across the street from where Penn jumped off the truck.

"Yes, sir. It makes me nervous," Niblett said. "I saw where the police got here with about nine cars over there; come here circling and circling."

Draper reminded people that helping an inmate avoid capture is a crime.

"Anybody that's going to assist him, hiding him, taking him somewhere, helping him hide, they can and will be charged with aiding and imbedding and that can be just as serious as anything he's done," Draper said.

Draper added that in the past, inmates have walked away from their work detail to take care of a family problem and then they've come back to jail.

He said he doesn't know though why Penn walked away.