LARGO, Fla. - Sean Williams, a Kentucky inmate who escaped a month ago, was arrested Tuesday night in Florida appeared to be bloodied and bruised in video taken as he was booked into jail.
Williams, 52, escaped from Tennessee on October 18 while being transported to a federal courthouse. Authorities say when the transport vehicle pulled into the sally port area, a detention deputy found a window was kicked out and Williams was gone.
He was serving time for exploitation of a minor, production of child porn and cocaine distribution. Williams is also accused of having more than 500 images and videos of him raping women.
Williams was spotted in Pinellas County on Tuesday and taken into custody by a Pinellas County deputy outside of a Largo 7-11 around 9 p.m.
Detectives showed store employees at the 7-Eleven on Walshingham Road pictures of the dangerous inmate, and just a few hours later, Williams would be inside that same store. Employes said as soon as they saw Williams’ picture, they recognized him.
Williams was arrested outside of a Largo 7-11.
"I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I’ve seen him,’" Marie Merchant, who owns the store with her husband, said.
"He was just like another customer in the community, and we never thought nothing of him until we got the photographs," she said. "Customers have seen him since Sunday. There's been talk about him coming Sunday morning outside trying to pick cigarette butts … And they were trying to help him get a job because he was asking for a job too, so he was just trying to blend in with the community, so to speak."
Merchant and store manager Tasha Bumgarner, who called police Tuesday night, said they’d seen Williams in and around the store for a few days. They also saw him sleeping in a green truck.
"The day before … he was outside, and he came in once or twice and stuff, and then he's back out in the truck and I leave at 10 p.m., and I when I left again, I thought to myself, ‘dang, he’s been out here all … three or four hours just sitting in front of the store,’" Bumgarner said. "It freaked me out then too, but I hadn’t seen a photo of him yet, so I didn’t think anything of it. I just thought, you know, maybe he broke down."
A few hours after detectives were at the 7-Eleven on Tuesday, employees there said Williams showed up barefoot. Employees there eventually called investigators.
Brian Boyd, former DEA Agent and Forensics and Counterintelligence expert, called Williams' escape suspicious.
Courtesy: FBI Tampa.
He said, "The question of escaping from a transport van begs two questions; how did he get away? Usually, they're chained at their ankles and their wrists, so was there some collusion with somebody within the jail system? How did he get a key?'
Boyd believes Williams likely had an escape plan in place. The FBI reports Williams had tried to escape custody in July 2023, but was unsuccessful.
"If he had an accomplice, did they provide him a vehicle? I can't imagine he got out of a transport van and started running up the highway in an orange suit," he said.
Sean Williams mugshot courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
Williams appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon. He will be transported back to Tennessee to face charges in that district. The U.S. Marshals Service is in charge of scheduling his transport. As of Wednesday evening, he was still in the Pinellas County Jail.
This wasn’t Williams’ first escape attempt. According to David Jolley, a U.S. Marshal, Williams was being kept in Kentucky after a separate escape attempt in Washington County Tennessee. A spokesperson for the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office said Williams is originally from Florida. The FBI is investigating Williams’ most recent escape.