Robert Rutherford, inmate at Franklin Correctional Institution. [ FDOC ]
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UPDATE: Escaped inmate captured in Eastpoint

The search for a Franklin Correctional Institution inmate who escaped Monday from a work crew site in Apalachicola has ended.

At about 6:30 p.m., Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith posted a video on Facebook of a handcuffed Robert Rutherford, 37, of Pasco County, in Eastpoint.

Authorities have captured Franklin County escaped inmate 37-year-old Robert Rutherford.

Rutherford was arrested Thursday evening.

“Everyone can rest easy in Franklin County now. The ones who harbored him are going to jail too” said Smith in the live social media post.

Details of the capture to follow


On Wednesday night, Rutherford had made it across the John Gorrie Bridge that runs between Apalachicola and Eastpoint.

In his broadcast, he said members of the search party were massed near the Eastpoint Cemetery as they widened their search east of the Apalachicola River.

“Everyone in Eastpoint should lock their doors and be vigilant,” Smith said. “Call us and let us know if he was cited, if you see someone who fits the description.”

Eastpoint resident Michael Allen said deputies as of 4:30 p.m. were in the vicinity of the Eastpoint library, between Hickory Dip Road, North Bayshore and Old Ferry Dock Road after he is believed to have been spotted in the area.

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered to anyone who can provide information that leads to his arrest.

On Wednesday evening, upwards of 50 law enforcement officers, from the sheriff’s offices, Apalachicola Police Department, the Florida Department of Corrections and Florida Highway Patrol, among others, were massed under the Gorrie Bridge in Apalachicola at 10 Foot Hole, near where Rutherford was pert of a inmate work crew on the first day of erecting fencing for the upcoming Florida Seafood Festival the first weekend of November.

Smith said Wednesday morning that Rutherford was seen Tuesday night between 8th Street and Avenue I, and that the search found he broken into a vacant home where he ate, drank, and changed clothes.

Rutherford is listed as being 5-foot 6-inches tall, and weighing about 150 pounds, with tattoos covering his chest, forehead and brow. “He’s probably covering himself with some kind of hat and hoodie, trying to conceal those identifying marks,” said Smith.

A post from the sheriff’s office said Rutherford was last seen wearing a camouflage jacket, khaki pants, grey and red beanie and carrying a white and black backpack. He does not have facial hair.

Rutherford’s brother contacted the sheriff’s office and asked if he could be of help, Smith said. He said Rutherford’s brother provided a family history and encouraged Rutherford to turn himself in, that it was what their father would want.

In an email to the Times Thursday, Rutherford’s sister Christina Rutherford, who lives in Hillsborough County, praised the work of local law enforcement.

“Local law enforcement is doing a wonderful job,” she wrote. “They are working 17-hour days and still making sure they find time to keep in contact with me and my mother on any new findings.

“I wholeheartedly believe that their main priority is a safe return of my brother,” she wrote. “The lead officer that has been the point of contact (is) being so vigilant and keeping communication constantly with me and it is very appreciated.”

” I’m trying to figure out ways I can get (a) message to my brother so that we can resolve this right away, get him returned and get everybody home safely for some well-deserved rest,” Christina Rutherford wrote. “I was so afraid that a resident would see… my brother and beings that he does have a lot of tattoos etc. ,… I was so afraid somebody would just shoot first, ask questions later.

“His kids are constantly calling and waiting to hear something as well,” Christina Rutherford wrote. “They are extremely worried. So I thought about making some signs and things like that to put up in the area (in) hopes my brother will see them.”

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, which have included multiple counts of armed burglary, grand theft, possessing burglary tools, criminal mischief, grand theft of a motor vehicle, trafficking stolen property, burglary of an occupied dwelling, and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling.

“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.

Smith said he may be trying to make it back to Pasco County, which is just north of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties on the western Gulf Coast of the state.

“We’re working this case day and night,” he said. “We’re going to stay on him. We have people here to check out these sightings. Let’s get this guy and let’s get Franklin County back at ease.”

Anyone with less urgent information on Rutherford’s whereabouts, is asked to call 911 or 850-670-8500.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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