Two Escaped Mont. Inmates Nabbed

Two convicted murderers escaped from a prison transport van while it was parked a fast-food restaurant, but they didn't get very far.

Five hours after breaking the windows of the van to escape while one of the guards went into Burger King on Thursday, Russell Rex VanKirk was arrested just blocks away, said Helena (search) Police Chief Troy McGee. William Leonard Brown was captured early Friday sneaking through yards nearby, he said.

VanKirk was taken to the hospital to be treated for cuts. "He's being well guarded," McGee said.

They were among four men who escaped from the van at 6 p.m. The other two escapees were immediately captured.

Shortly after the escape, two local residents reported VanKirk and Brown — both still wearing chains and handcuffs — tried to steal their car, McGee said. The vehicle's owners fled with the keys.

Six inmates were in all were in the transport van. One was badly cut by the glass and was treated at a hospital; another were quickly apprehended and two remained in the van, McGee said.

Officers went door-to-door checking houses and garages, looking for VanKirk and Brown. They also set up road blocks and a National Guard helicopter joined the search.

VanKirk, 37, is serving a 110-year sentence for murdering a woman in Helena in June 1995. Brown, 24, is serving a 110-year sentence for stabbing a man to death in 2000.