"Nobody knows anything and everybody's speculating," Chronicle reader blogger Bert Marshall, aka Baytown Bert told me this afternoon. "People are looking over their shoulders but going about their business." As he was out and about today, Marshall said he heard a lot of talk about the 49-year-old escapee who remains free.
Comeaux, who was being transported from the Estelle prison unit in Huntsville to the Stiles Unit in Beaumont, forced the two guards escorting him to drive him to Baytown. "That tells me he has connections here," Marshall said. Late this afternoon, investigators said there was no reason to believe Comeaux had left the Baytown area.
At one Baytown business, the clerk had Comeaux's photo on her cell phone and was keeping an eye out for him as customers came in the store, Marshall said. When Marshall gave blood today at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center in Baytown, he said everyone he talked to there was aware of the escape.
"People were kind of jumpy," he said.
Meanwhile, over at Sterling Municipal Library, site of the police command center during Monday's intense search for Comeaux, the staff was too busy today to chat with patrons about Comaux's escape, said Library Director Katherine Brown. "I haven't heard anybody talk about it today," Brown said. "We're moving on. We're so busy we don't have time to gossip about it. Everybody who wasn't here yesterday wanted to come today."
A police dispatcher telephoned Brown Monday to ask her to close the library a couple minutes after it had opened at 10 a.m. Even in that short time span, about 40 people had entered, she said. "There are 30 or so waiting every day when we open our doors," Brown said of users who come for services ranging from e-mail access to children's story hour. "We're really busy." When police escorted patrons out of the building and to their cars, library staff members settled down to a quiet day of work, Brown said.
I think I might have been a bit distracted by the presence of the Baytown Police Department SWAT team, or the helicopters overhead, or the search dogs, or police horses and horse trailers, or the officers from multiple law enforcement agencies coming in and out of the library to use the photocopier or restroom (before the porta-can arrived.)
Brown said she could see the prisoner transport van that was "10 feet from the back door," but didn't know details of how it ended up outside the library. With the library locked down Monday, the evening staff couldn't get to work, so everyone went home about 4 p.m., Brown said. Before they got into their cars, officers checked vehicles, including the trunks, to make sure drivers could safely get inside, she said.
"It was nice to go home for food," Brown said. "They wouldn't let the pizza guy in."
Story by Carol Christian Houston Chronicle Reporter