The sister of a Franklin County Institution inmate, who walked away Monday morning from a work crew site at the 10 Foot Hole in Apalachicola, is pleading for his safe return.
In an email to the Apalachicola Times, Christina Rutherford, sister of escaped inmate Robert Rutherford., wrote that her brother is not a violent man.
“He is not dangerous,” she said. “The police are painting a picture that could get him hurt and that’s not right.”
Robert Rutherford, 37, from Pasco County, was being sought Tuesday morning by a host of law enforcement officials, after he is believed to have walked off a work site at 10 Foot Hole, which is adjacent to Apalachicola’s Battery Park.
“I just wanted the good people of Franklin County to be aware that my brother is a person with a huge heart and he is not violent,” Christina Rutherford wrote. “Please help me find him SAFELY so he can carry out his sentence and come home to a family that has been waiting many years. “
She said news accounts portraying her brother are “incredibly false. Yes, he has a record and he has paid for that. I think it only right, fair, and just that the truth be told.
“He is a loving father of two boys , and a good man,” Christian Rutherford wrote.
The inmate has been incarcerated at FCI since Sept. 2011, after he received a 20-year sentence in Pasco County for armed burglary and stealing property worth as much as $100,000.
Prior to that he was imprisoned from September 2007 until May 2008, part of a conviction record listed on the Florida Department of Corrections website that indicates Rutherford has a lengthy history of offenses in Pasco County over the past decade, mainly related to grand theft and burglary.
While his record does not include violent crimes, he had incidents in 2009 of misdemeanor battery and violating an injunction against domestic violence.
“The economic crash in ’08 is why my brother resorted to breaking the law,” wrote Christina Rutherford. “Not for drugs, not to gamble with, but for money that always went to feed and house his children when work was not an option.
“I don’t know why he did this but I do know that he is not dangerous,” she wrote.
Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said on Facebook Monday afternoon that as of about 2 p.m., Rutherford was last seen in the vicinity of Chestnut Cemetery. “It looked like he was heading north,” he said.
“These are serious crimes,” said Smith. “We don’t take anything for granted when you have someone who’s a career offender and who has an extensive criminal history.
“We ask everyone to lock your doors and vehicles. Please be aware of your surroundings during this time. Do not approach Rutherford,” said the sheriff.
The sheriff said a K-9 unit from the prison was tracking Rutherford, who goes by the nicknames Rud or Rut.
“People like him are desperate or they would not be leaving,” said Smith. “He’ll probably be looking for a way to go and a change of clothes.”
Rutherford is now considered “armed and dangerous,” FCSO community outreach coordinator Sophia Harrell told WCTV at about 4:30 p.m. She said the office believes he broke into a shed and stole a machete.
If you see Rutherford, or have any information on his whereabouts, call 850-670-8500.