Troopers arrest Homer escapee

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2010

During her encounters with lower Kenai Peninsula law enforcement, Cierra Ticknor tore off her shirt, slipped her handcuffs and swam in the cold Kenai River, but after two days on the lam, Alaska State Troopers on Monday afternoon arrested the Anchorage woman in Soldotna after she escaped Saturday from the Homer Jail.

Troopers captured Ticknor, 18, and took her to Wildwood Pretrial Facility, where she remained Tuesday.

Rescuers had searched the river on Monday after Ticknor swam away from troopers in the Poppy Ridge area near Kalifornsky Beach Road. Arresting Trooper Ryan Tennis said Ticknor was shaking but otherwise unhurt after he captured her.

Homer Police charged Ticknor with second-degree escape, a felony; fourth-degree theft; third-degree forgery; giving false information and fourth-degree assault. Further charges are pending, Tennis said.

"There was kind of strange behavior going on in the young woman," said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl.

Police suspect Ticknor might have been under the influence of drugs, he said.

Ticknor's four-day adventure with peninsula law enforcement started with a report about 9 p.m. Friday that a woman pulled off her clothes in the Homer Safeway parking lot on the Sterling Highway. Safeway loss-prevention agents had been running an undercover shoplifting investigation in Homer and allege Ticknor stole two boxes of hair dye worth $23.51. Police found Ticknor wearing pants and a bra, Homer Police Officer Larry Baxter said in a criminal complaint.

The Safeway security agents alleged that Ticknor tried to flee, kicked one of them in the leg and her shirt came off as she tried to pull away. The agents said Ticknor gave her purse to a male friend.

Police arrested Ticknor on the assault and theft charges. Ticknor gave and signed her sister's name while being booked. Safeway agents found Ticknor's purse and gave it to the police. The purse had identification for a Cierra Ticknor. Police checked state records and found Ticknor's sister has blue eyes while Cierra Ticknor has brown eyes. Baxter said Ticknor admitted identifying herself as her sister because Anchorage police have a warrant out for her.

On Saturday afternoon, Ticknor was handcuffed in the jail holding area while waiting to be taken to arraignment in Homer District Court. While a jail officer put other prisoners in the jail van, Ticknor got loose, Robl said.

"Even though she was handcuffed, she was able to fold her hands and slip out of them," Robl said.

Somehow Ticknor opened a locked door leading to another room and a second door outside. Robl said police are investigating how Ticknor opened the door. Normally, the lock sets when shut and can only be opened from the outside of the holding area.

Because the jail officer had other prisoners, he couldn't chase after Ticknor.

"She basically ducked out behind him," Robl said. "She got a bit of a head start."

About 1:30 p.m. Monday, troopers got a tip that Ticknor was in the Poppy Ridge area near Soldotna. Tennis said when he approached Ticknor, she gave a different name and ran off. Another trooper followed her to the Kenai River and saw her in chest-high water.

"We went out there to take care of business and she decided to bail," he said.

Fearing the escape would turn into a drowning, Kenai Fire Department and Central Emergency Services put boats in the water to try and find Ticknor, Tennis said. Two Alaska Wildlife Troopers searched in a boat, as well, said Captain Peter Mlynarik, while three state troopers searched the shoreline.

Kenai Fire Chief Mike Tilly said that three firefighters deployed from the Kenai docks. The search concentrated at the high bluffs, or river quest area, and moved down towards Harry Gaine's camp. At least two private boats aided the river search, which lasted approximately half an hour, Tilly said.

There was some confusion over the description of the suspect initially. The chief said that some of his men heard her described as morbidly obese.

"Wait? Did they say five feet tall and four hundred pounds," Tilly laughed.

About a half hour later, a woman called and said that a girl had broken into her house and stolen her son's clothing.

"Of course, that's our girl," Tennis said. "She was shaking for sure."

He described the 5-foot 4-inch, 100-pound woman as "fairly small."

Tennis captured Ticknor without incident. Tennis said he secured her handcuffs extra tight and put her in a warm trooper car.

"I'm glad we didn't have a drowning," Tennis said. "It turned out good in the end."

Ticknor is wanted in Anchorage for failing to appear in court. There are open court cases against her for driving with a revoked license and giving false information and failure to carry proof of auto insurance and malicious destruction of property.

Peninsula Clarion reporter Tony Cella contributed to this report.

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