The sex offender who escaped from a transport van Monday after attacking the driver with a plastic knife has been captured.
Sgt. Rian Lahey of the Neosho County Sheriff’s Department arrested Randy E. Snodgrass, 58, on K-47 near Ness Road at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Snodgrass, who eluded authorities for more than 13 hours after jumping out of the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center van, was found walking westbound on K-47. A traveler called the sheriff to report seeing a suspicious person on the highway. Lahey responded and arrested Snodgrass without incident, according to Neosho County Undersheriff Greg Taylor. Snodgrass is in the Neosho County Jail on a Kansas Department of Corrections warrant for a parole violation. He is listed on the KDOC website as an absconder. He likely will remain in Neosho County until charges are filed in Labette County.
The Labette County Sheriff’s Department is seeking charges of aggravated escape from custody, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and aggravated kidnapping.
Around noon Monday, a van driven by a state hospital employee, with Snodgrass as the only passenger, was returning to the PSHTC campus in Parsons after Snodgrass completed a job interview in Independence. Snodgrass was in the state’s sexual predator treatment program and has been in Parsons since Dec. 20, 2019.
Snodgrass was not handcuffed during the transport and sat in the front passenger seat, according to Labette County Sheriff Darren Eichinger.
On U.S. 400 just before making the right turn onto Ness Road, Snodgrass is alleged to have ordered the female driver to pull over. He held a plastic knife to her neck and threatened to hurt her. A struggle ensued and the female driver received minor injuries that required treatment at Labette Health. Snodgrass jumped out of the van. The state employee jumped out and retrieved her state-issued cell phone from the back seat and got back in the van and locked the doors, Eichinger said.
“(Snodgrass) took off at that point,” Eichinger said, and the state employee called 911.
The first bulletin on Snodgrass’ escape was broadcast just after noon Monday.
Snodgrass was last seen running north from near Ag Choice. The Labette and Neosho County sheriff, the Kansas Highway Patrol and Parsons police searched the area and followed up on various reports of people seeing a man matching Snodgrass’ description in the area.
Neosho County Undersheriff Taylor said Snodgrass told Sgt. Lahey that he followed the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the north into Neosho County and eventually walked west, finding K-47. Taylor said deputies were following up Tuesday and checking on residents who live near the general route that Snodgrass described to make sure they are OK and that no property is missing. He said Snodgrass did not appear to have injuries and was still wearing his black hooded sweatshirt and black pants.
Snodgrass was in the state’s sexual predator treatment program. The program allows a person to be indefinitely confined through a civil commitment order signed and overseen by a judge if he or she has a mental abnormality or personality disorder and is likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. The law has been in place since 1994 and has been amended a number of times.
After admission into the program, residents are placed on the assessment and orientation tier, which evaluates residents to determine risk and treatment needs. Once that is done, residents move to tier one to focus on adding needed skills. Once all necessary skills have been acquired and tier one is done, residents may be approved to advance to tier two for skill demonstration. Tier two provides residents with abilities to move from structured inpatient treatment toward an independent lifestyle and gives them a chance to demonstrate their new skills. Once tier two has been completed, residents advance to tier three, where they are placed in a reintegration facility (Larned, Osawatomie, Parsons State Hospital and Training Center). There, the residents demonstrate how to apply offense-free behavior learned at Larned State Hospital to the real world, according to the Cara Sloan-Ramos, public information officer for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which oversees state hospitals.
Residents in tier three or the next phase, transitional release, may live at Parsons State Hospital in Maple or Willow cottages, which can house a total of 16 residents. The cottages house seven residents now that Snodgrass is gone, according to Sloan-Ramos.
Part of the program in the transitional phase is finding and maintaining work, seeking out community housing and counseling so residents can move into the conditional release phase.
Conditional release lasts a minimum of five years, during which residents are monitored and continue counseling as they live and work in a community, a program summary shows.
Snodgrass was in tier three, according to Sloan-Ramos.
“He had reached a level in the program that prescribes a more realistic community-based environment and typical societal responsibilities such as finding employment, managing income, paying bills and constructively structuring individual time. The goal of Tier Three is to assist residents in becoming self-sufficient when they apply for Transitional Release,” Sloan-Ramos said in email correspondence.
Sloan-Ramos would not answer a question about policy related to transporting residents in the sexual predator treatment program. Snodgrass and the female state employee were alone in the van and her only communication was a state-issued cell phone that was in the back seat, according to Sheriff Eichinger and Sloan-Ramos.
“Hospital leadership has initiated an internal review to ensure protocol was followed” in the transport, Sloan-Ramos said.
In a KDADS release, Sloan-Ramos said the employee was treated for injuries at the hospital and released.
Snodgrass’ convictions for rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault, relate to an incident on Nov. 1, 1990, in Lawrence. He asked a neighbor’s daughter to come to his mother’s house to help because his mother allegedly had fallen. The neighbor reluctantly entered the house and was raped and sodomized by Snodgrass. Snodgrass had held a knife to her throat before the attack and after the attack he threatened to kill her family if she told anyone what happened. Police arrested Snodgrass the next morning and found him hiding in a crawl space of his mother’s house, according to a factual summary included in his unsuccessful appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court.