DOC commissioner discusses mistakes leading to prison break

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Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Michigan City - Indiana's top boss at the Department of Corrections is on the hot seat following that prison break at Michigan City's maximum security facility.

Commissioner Ed Buss believes 45-year-old convicted rapist Lance Battreal and 46-year-old convicted killer Mark Booher are still hiding out in northwest Indiana.

13 Investigates sat down with the commissioner and uncovered new details of what went wrong.

A year into the job, Commissioner Ed Buss has faced sleepless nights on the hunt for three prison escapees. One got caught, but two others still on the run from an honors dorm at a facility that's supposed to be airtight - a prison where the worst of the worst live.

"These officers thought they could trust these inmates," Buss said.

That was the first mistake. Corrections officers let down their guard and gave the escapees unsupervised access that allowed them to cut their way to freedom.

It appears it wasn't just a work-site breach, but one underneath the dorm where the offenders slept, perhaps explaining how they got out undetected.

"They violated their post orders and allowed offenders to get into the tunnel system and in the midway system which are pipe chases in the cell house as well," Buss said. "They took shortcuts in doing their job and because of that we have three men who escaped."

It's particularly disturbing to Buss, who up until last year served as the superintendent at the maximum security prison. During his tenure, there was work in the tunnels, but under close watch.

Now the investigation reveals a second security lapse, this one empowering critical communication banned in prison. The inmates may have had some outside ability to communicate? "We found a cell phone charger in one of the offenders' property," said Buss.

Finally, questions continue to swirl around convicted killer Paul Komyatti who was set free in May. He lived in the same cell block with the escapees. US marshals questioned him about the jail break and arrested him on parole violations Tuesday at his Indianapolis home. He admits to unauthorized travel to Michigan City under the dark of night.

"I cannot comment at this time on that," Buss said.

The commissioner suspended the three correctional officers and vows to do everything humanly possible to secure the state's maximum security prisons and those tunnels. They're looking at installing motion detectors and stainless steel bars.

Offenders will no longer be able to do any maintenance work in those areas and guards will face additional training.

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