TDCJ inmate search: Texas convicted sex offender escaped prison using employee badge mother gave him

ByNick Natario, Courtney Fischer KTRK logo
Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Inmate's mom worked for TDCJ, gave son badge to escape, officials say
Eyewitness News is learning new details about how a convicted sex offender was able to walk out of a prison unit in Brazoria.

BRAZORIA COUNTY, Texas -- A convicted sex offender who escaped from a prison outside Houston was captured about 40 miles away, officials said.

The Brazoria County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of 39-year-old Robert Yancy Jr. in an update at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Two other people believed to be involved in Yancy's escape were also arrested: his mother, Leonor Priestle, who is charged with permitting or facilitating an escape, and Priestle's boyfriend, Russell Williams, who is charged with criminal intent to escape, authorities said.

As for Yancy, he will face felony escape charges.

ABC Houston affiliate KTRK asked the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Clemens Unit how the escape happened, and officials said it took place when Priestle went to visit her son on Sunday.

Priestle was wearing a black sweater and beanie, which she gave her son, and he somehow put it on.

In order to leave the unit, everyone must show identification to staff. Yancy presented officials a real ID, but it wasn't his. It went unnoticed, and he was able to walk right out with his mother.

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Priestle was a former Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional officer from March 2010 to September 2011. TDCJ said they believed she had some kind of inside information from that previous job.

TDCJ officials told KTRK that Yancy was captured after people at a park recognized him and called authorities. Yancy allegedly tried to say he was the man whose ID he showed officials but eventually confessed. In a photo released by the prison, Yancy was still seen wearing his white prison clothes.

Parkgoers were shocked to see Yancy at the park 40 miles from the prison.

"That's crazy because that's a long way from Brazoria County," Mark Eickenhorst said. "I cant believe it. He must've got a ride or something out here, or a family member gave him a ride out here."

Yancy's mother was reportedly driving the same white Nissan her son was last seen in after he escaped from prison on Sunday afternoon. Police said they pulled Priestle over at a traffic light shortly before 8:30 p.m. Sunday, though the escapee was nowhere to be found.

Police said she was taken into custody for an outstanding felony warrant related to Yancy's escape from prison.

Yancy is currently serving a life sentence without parole after he was convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child out of Victoria County, Texas. He will not be returning to the Clemens Unit, which, as of Dec. 15, had a population of 1,135 inmates.

Yancy repeatedly abused a 7-year-old girl over a three-year period, authorities said. He was sentenced after the jury deliberated for just 23 minutes.

Before he was captured, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said he was last seen at approximately 3:38 p.m. Sunday at the facility.

There was a previous escape at the Clemens Unit on Oct. 6 of this year. That incident involved inmate Cadarion Avery, who was at a housing location outside the main prison for inmates serving non-violent sentences. Officials said Avery walked away from the unit and was found nearby.

TDCJ said it is looking into security processes and investigating areas to improve.

ORIGINAL REPORT: TDCJ searching for inmate serving life in prison who escaped from Brazoria County facility Sunday

Texas Department of Criminal Justice is searching for escaped inmate Robert Yancy Jr., last seen on Sunday in the Clemens Unit in Brazoria County.