Berkeley County escapee arrested in Myrtle Beach

James Sanders (Provided)

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- The man who slipped out of the Hill Finklea Detention Center back in January is now back in police custody.

James Sanders, 39, was arrested in Myrtle Beach on Thursday night.Berkeley County spokesman Dan Moon said there were reported sightings of Sanders in Myrtle Beach, and the U.S. Marshals were very helpful in his capture.

Sanders is facing several charges, including but not limited to resisting arrest. According to an incident report, Sanders was at Broadway at the Beach and accused of stealing a woman's wallet.

"He sort of stumbled over himself apparently. Decided he wanted to go partying. He got in a little trouble at a bar up there," Moon said.

Officials say they found the wallet hanging partially out of Sanders' back pocket. According to the report, Sanders did not have an ID. Two women helped him get into the club where he was arrested after spending "all night" drinking and dancing with him. While en route to the jail, officers say Sanders gave them a false birth date and name, "Allen J. Bowzard."

Deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Conroy describes Sanders as the ultimate con artist. He said investigators had narrowed the search and focused on Myrtle Beach eight days ago, but Sanders managed to get lucky and stay a few steps ahead for a while.

Conroy said Sanders had been in the Myrtle Beach area for at least a week before investigators were able to piece things together. He said Sanders was staying at hospital, using an alias.

Sanders, according to Conroy, was going by the name of "Kevin." Security workers at the hospital said Sanders had somehow gotten the name of a patient in a coma and told hospital officials he was a family member.

"We believe he was just hanging out there, blending in the crowd and giving stories to patient's families in the intensive care unit waiting room and kind of mooching off of them," Conroy said.

Conroy said it was a con that worked well for Sanders as he was able to sleep in the hospital, eat and shower. It all ended when the person in a coma began to wake up and a family member from out of town came to visit.

Everyone quickly realized "Kevin" was not a family member or a friend of the hospital patient.

"I just think he made it up as he was going along with his stories and used this name to obviously elude law enforcement and not arouse suspicion," Conroy said.

Sanders was escorted out of the hospital, and later security workers at the hospital found a stash of clothes. That's when, according to Conroy, the connection was made between "Kevin" and Sanders. It was Thursday of last week when the pieces of the puzzle began to come together. Security workers at the hospital notified the U.S. Marshals and at about the same time investigators in Berkeley County began to identify Myrtle Beach as a place Sanders may be hiding.

Conroy said inmates at the Berkeley County detention center told investigators Sanders bragged about a big job he had lined up in Myrtle Beach.

On Monday, investigators went to Myrtle Beach to assist. They went to every homeless shelter, Conroy said. They had gotten a tip Sanders was spotted at a shelter during lunch. But by the time investigators got there, Sanders was long gone. The hunt for Sanders got a little cold, until the incident and arrest at Broadway at the Beach.

Sanders was arraigned on his new charges Friday morning at a hearing in Myrtle Beach. He pleaded no contest to a charge of petit larceny and guilty to a charge of providing false information to police. He was issued a 30-day suspended sentence on both charges and released to the custody of Berkeley County officials.

It was the first time Sanders was was seen by Berkeley officials since he eluded them in the Sangaree neighborhood of Summerville on February 1.

Video surveillance footage provided by MUSC shows Sanders later visited MUSC on February 3rd and 4th. An MUSC spokesperson said Sanders spent time in two waiting rooms while visiting someone at the hospital.

Officials with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office say one wrong detail and multiple failures to follow protocol led to the escape of James Sanders from the Hill-Finklea Detention Facility on January 26.

A report and documents from the internal investigation of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office showed several employees watched Sanders walk out the wrong door and did nothing.

When being led back into the Berkeley County Detention Center Friday, Sanders issued an apology to new crews standing on the other side of the fence. He said little, only the words, "I apologize."

Moon said his apology doesn't surprise him at all. "If I was in his shoes I'd be apologetic now too," he said.

Moon also says he is not surprised how long Sanders was on the run.

"We knew he would eventually get caught," Moon said.

At his bond court hearing in Moncks Corner{} Friday night, Sanders remained silent and stood with his head down.

The judge granted Sanders a $800,000 bond. If released, he will be required to wear a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet.

* ABC News 4's Brian Troutman, Alex Caban, Lia Sestric, Sonya Stevens, Justin Peterson, Matt Dreyer and Valencia Wicker contributed to this article.

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