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Fugitives lack trust in officials

Lori Allain tells the St. Petersburg Times she and her husband don't feel safe turning themselves in to Hernando County officials.


BROOKSVILLE - The Allains, the North Suncoast's most known fugitives, say a major reason they're still on the lam, and seem determined to stay that way, is that they wouldn't feel safe turning themselves in to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, and that they also wouldn't feel safe in the Hernando County Jail.

"We feel we would not have a prayer's chance in hell in the Hernando County Jail," Lori Allain said in a recent phone conversation.

"There have been no official conversations about the Allains here," warden Arvil "Butch" Chapman said Wednesday, but he did add this: "Inmate safety and welfare is a priority for all inmates who are incarcerated at the jail."

Chapman also made it clear there would be no special arrangements made for the Allains if and when they turn themselves in or are found.

"Absolutely not."

Lori Allain, 49, and Arthur "Tommy" Allain, 47, were arrested June 18, 2004, and accused of keeping their 10-year-old foster daughter in a trailer in northwest Hernando and starving her until she weighed 29 pounds. They didn't show up in Circuit Judge Jack Springstead's courtroom Oct. 25 for the start of their trial.

They've been gone ever since.

Two weeks ago today, though, Lori Allain called the St. Petersburg Times, and in that conversation, and then in a handful of subsequent conversations, different members of the family have made a series of requests - almost as if they're trying to set the conditions under which the two of them would end their time on the run.

The first demand involved Circuit Judge Jack Springstead.

"I want Springstead the f--- off my case," Lori Allain said.

The second, five days later, was about Tommy Allain's court-appointed attorney, and how they wanted him gone, too.

Now this - including, directed at the Sheriff's Office, allegations of harassment, threats of violence and even racial slurs.

The Allains told the Times last week that they had tried in the first week after the trial date to set up a surrender through the FBI's Pasco County office in New Port Richey because they didn't want to deal with Sheriff Richard Nugent and local deputies.

"She did not trust them, and she didn't trust the situation," said Jason Barrett, 27, the live-in boyfriend of Kristen Staab, 23, one of the Allains' two daughters in Spring Hill. "They felt more safe with another party . . . because we all know she doesn't really trust the Hernando County Sheriff's Office."

"That's just absurd," said Detective Neil Sullivan, the lead local investigator on the case. "It's absurd. I can't think of anything else to say but that."

"However they want to do it is fine with us, as long as they do it," he added. "They can turn themselves in to any law enforcement agency in the country."

Their concerns, Lori Allain has said, stem from things family members say have been said to them since this all started.

She said someone at the Sheriff's Office - she couldn't remember exactly who, and neither could other family members - told Staab "that, you know, well, this can be pretty dirty, and they got rookies out there, and they're nervous, they're excitable, and I would hate to see your parents get shot, but it would be justifiable."

On Oct. 27, when Barrett and Staab tried to pick up a letter at the post office on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill, sheriff's deputies came - three cars and four deputies, she said - "and we said, "Let us leave, let us leave,' and they started making comments about my parents. I said: "You guys, this is embarrassing. You need to stop. I didn't do anything. I'm not being charged with anything.'

"They said: "Just tell us where your parents are. You're a manipulator, just like your mom,' and "If she's not a child abuser, why did she run?' I said: "You need to stop.' One of them said: "You need to shut your mouth.' Jason said: "Don't talk to her that way.' And then they called him "you stupid n-----.' " Barrett is black. Staab said it wasn't the first time someone from the Sheriff's Office has called him that.

"We are all professionals here," sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Donna Black said earlier this week, "and it would be highly unlikely any of our people would use that term toward anyone."

She wouldn't respond to any of the other specific allegations.

"I can only comment on fact," she said. "Anything other than that is just supposition."

Lori Allain was asked in her most recent conversation with the Times why she feels so strongly that she would be unsafe turning herself in to the Hernando Sheriff's Office and then in the county jail.

She cited the inmate suicide in early November - this was before the suicide there late last week - and then said it was "because of the sheriff's department." She was reminded the jail is run by Corrections Corporation of America, a private company based in Nashville.

"Think about where the jail is," she said.

"Hernando County.

"They're all tight there.

"I feel Judge Springstead is dirty. I feel Judge Springstead is covering up for Hernando County. Judge Springstead is buddies with Nugent. That's all there is to it."

"This is a professional agency," said Sullivan, the detective. "I mean, it's just . . . absurd.


"If any of them feel they've been treated anything other than professionally, we encourage them to contact Internal Affairs and to file a complaint," said Black, the spokeswoman. "They can call Internal Affairs to find out the procedure. Or they can call the front desk. They can call me if they want."

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.

2006 Jan 12