Ex-fugitive’s plane returns

Russell John Smith, charged with sexually assaulting a 12-year-old Dale City girl, was scheduled to be escorted back to Prince William County from Oregon late Thursday night.

The plane landed at Washington-Dulles International Airport at about 11:45 p.m. Airport officials could not be reached to confirm whether the Dale City man was on the plane.

Smith, 37, was wanted for rape and forcible sodomy against a minor. He fled his home with his daughter Tara, 12, on Aug. 17 after quitting his job as a Prince William/Manassas regional jail corrections officer Aug. 14.

Police have theorized that he left because he knew he was under investigation for the rape and forcible sodomy charges, which were brought forward by two former girlfriends. He has a baby girl with Susan Jacobs, the girlfriend he was living with in his Dale City home when he fled.

When police searched his home Aug. 24, they found a satanic ritual room in his basement with black candles, robes, satanic symbols and a goat’s skull.

He was captured in Oregon on Sept. 5.

According to Prince William Detective Dennis Mangan on Thursday afternoon, Smith was to be escorted back from Oregon to Dulles on United Airlines Flight 752 just before midnight by Prince William police detectives Tom Garrity and Gary Gardiner.

Mangan said the Prince William County Police Department does not have its own specific rules on how to maintain security for prisoner transports on commercial aircraft, but that each airline has its own rules.

“Some airlines won’t let you use handcuffs, some require handcuffs. It just depends on the airline’s policy,” Mangan said. “We’re prepared to follow whatever rules we have to [in order] to get back here.”

Joe Hopkins, media relations manager for United Airlines, said the carrier will not divulge exactly how prisoner transport is conducted, but said that it occurs frequently.

“It [prisoner transport] is done routinely. Just about every day we have this on one of our flights,” Hopkins said. “The details of what we require [for prisoner transport] is a part of our security program and something we don’t share publicly.”

Hopkins said United has carried prisoners with law enforcement escorts for many decades now.

Mangan said he was not sure how security at Dulles would be handled when Smith got off the plane.

“The airport police have helped us in the past with cases like this,” Mangan said Thursday afternoon. “They know the best way to do things and the easiest way. I’m sure they’ll help us tonight also.”

Tom Sullivan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said Thursday that airport police will take an active role in providing security for Smith’s arrival.

“Basically, our police officers will be involved in a situation such as this with whatever jurisdiction is going to be doing the escort,” he said. “We’ll work hand in hand with Prince William County in providing security at the airport.”

Col. Glenn Hill, Prince William/Manassas regional jail superintendent, said Smith would be kept at the county jail even though he is a former corrections officer there.

“I’ll decide what I’m going to do with him after he arrives,” Hill said Thursday. “He gets special housing because he was a former employee. Once a person has been an officer, if I put him around other inmates, his safety might be in jeopardy.”

Hill said special housing means that he will be by himself, not that he will get preferential treatment.

Mangan said Tara is back in Virginia, but he is not sure when she arrived, or whom she is with. Ron Sullins, the assistant chief of Criminal Investigations for the Prince William Police Department, said in a Sept. 5 press conference that Tara’s mother had been located, although her identity remains unknown to the public. It is not clear if Tara is currently in her custody.

Mangan said he wasn’t sure when Smith would be arraigned, but that it would most likely be this morning.

Smith’s capture was the culmination of a nation-wide manhunt involving Prince William police, U.S. marshals, the FBI, the Douglas County, Ore., Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies. The case was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” which produced tips that ultimately helped lead authorities to Smith.

Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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