Fugitives in canoe no match for cops in motorboat

Fugitives Jessie Bryant, 23, of Fort Pierce, left, and Garrett Erue, 23, of Gainesville, right, were arrested Monday afternoon after a chase by Madison County Sheriff's Office deputies down the Withlacoochee River in a canoe near Lee. (Corespondent photo by Russell Williams)

Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 1:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 1:17 p.m.

A pair of fugitives tried to escape capture Monday by paddling away on a canoe down the Withlacoochee River in Madison County. Their pursuers, however, had a power boat, and the paddlers soon were in custody.

One of the men nabbed, Garrett Eure, 23, of Gainesville, was wanted for failure to appear on an escape charge, according to reports. The other fugitive was Jessie Bryant, 23, of Fort Pierce, who was wanted on various charges.

Using two wooden paddles, the fugitives managed to elude authorities for about five hours before they were caught at the Southwest County Road 141 bridge after a 9-mile journey down the river.

The U.S. Marshals Service contacted the Madison County Sheriff’s Office on Monday to say that Eure was living in Madison, Madison Chief Deputy Epp Richardson said in a news release.

Investigators determined that Eure was living in a house in Lee with Bryant, who was wanted in St. Lucie County for burglary of a dwelling with assault and battery by strangulation. Eure’s girlfriend, Cassandra Zabriskie, 21, also of Gainesville, was with them, the release said.

Eure and Bryant suspected that authorities had found them and they ran to the Withlacoochee River, climbed into a canoe and tried to escape, the release said.

Officials used K9s to track the fugitives on foot and then a motorboat to chase and catch the fugitives on the river, the release said.

The small blue canoe the men used was filled with a cooler and several backpacks, said Russell Williams, a freelance photographer who was present during the arrests. Williams added that deputies at the scene said they had been to Zabriskie’s house multiple times, and she had told them her boyfriend was not there.

“The nicer looking one, Bryant, told me, ‘I hope you got my good side,’ ” Williams said.

According to Florida Department of Corrections records, Eure was in prison until October 2013 on several Lake County charges, including armed burglary and grand theft. In March 2013, the Gainesville Police Department arrested Eure for escaping while on work release and returned him to state custody, Gainesville police public information officer Ben Tobias said.

Bryant was incarcerated from 2009 to 2012 on charges out of St. Lucie County, including burglary, credit card fraud, organized fraud, fleeing a law enforcement officer and grand theft of a motor vehicle, according to public records.

Eure was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear on an escape charge from an armed burglary charge in Alachua County. Bryant was arrested on warrants for burglary and battery. Zabriskie was arrested on charges of resisting without violence, the release said.

The three were taken into custody by deputies and taken to the Madison County jail. Zabriskie was released on $540 bond on Monday night, but Bryant and Eure remained at the jail on Tuesday on no bond and $100,000 bond respectively.

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