The story of how a murder suspect escaped from the Broward County Courthouse and left local law-enforcement officers looking like the Keystone Kops is one of those incredible, only-in-South-Florida stories — but there’s nothing funny about this one.
The protagonist in this unsettling crime-and-no-punishment drama is Dayonte Resiles, 21. At the time of his most recent arrest, when he was 20, his police record included open felony cases for such things as possession of ammunition by a convicted delinquent, burglary, grand theft, etc. In short, this is not the portrait of a master criminal.
According to the police, Resiles broke into a home in the gated WestRidge community in Davie in 2014 and wound up killing the woman who lived there, Jill Halliburton Su, 59. She died of multiple stab wounds. Police theorized he was in the process of committing a burglary when he killed her. He was charged with murder while engaged in a felony offense.
Police said the killer left behind a wealth of evidence (again, not the signature of a master criminal) that led them to Resiles, including a knife retrieved from the scene that was allegedly used to stab the victim.
This brings us to last Friday, when he was led — handcuffed and shackled — into a packed fourth-floor courtroom in Broward County for a hearing on whether he might face the death penalty if convicted. Sheriff deputies turned him over to (unarmed) bailiffs, who seated him in the jury box along with other jail inmates awaiting a hearing.
Suddenly, Resiles managed to shed handcuffs and shackles, bolt from his seat and run to the closest door, down a stairwell and out into broad daylight. Right under everyone’s noses. At this writing, his whereabouts remain unknown.
On Sunday, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said four alleged accomplices had been arrested for helping him escape. They include his 18-year-old girlfriend and 17-year-old twins. At 22, Winston Russell, Jr., is the senior member of this brilliant posse that managed to outwit Broward’s finest. He drove the waiting car that carried Resiles to safety, police said.
Let’s review: An accused murderer barely into adulthood manages to escape from his restraints in a packed courtroom that includes bailiffs. No one stops him as he runs out through the closest door. He scampers down three flights of stairs, bursts out of the stairwell onto the street . . . and vanishes. Unmolested the entire way.
And in all of this, we are told, he is assisted by a gang consisting mostly of teenagers.
Broward residents should be outraged. The gross incompetence of everyone involved in this farcical episode is inexcusable. Sheriff Israel’s first reaction was to blame Broward commissioners for failing to give him adequate staffing for the courthouse — not quite the reassurance Broward residents needed.
The sheriff has revised procedures for turning over maximum-security inmates in the courthouse so that a detention officer “will only release custody once an armed deputy is present.” It’s an improvement, but no one will feel safe until Resiles and all his accomplices are caught.
Broward Mayor Marty Kiar has promised a full investigation. The sooner the better, Mr. Mayor. It must be thorough and transparent, and include a review of all security procedures involving inmates. Bring in an outside agency unbound by the politics of Broward County.
And let the chips fall where they may.