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A man awaiting sentencing for homicide stole keys from a Valley County Detention Facility officer in a failed attempt to escape the jail.

Valley County Sheriff Vern Buerkle said that at around midnight on Friday, Jay Witkowski and another inmate "overpowered" an officer, took the keys and tried to get outside.

“They didn’t succeed," Buerkle said. "They're currently being held in solitary. They have been charged with attempted escape, aggravated kidnapping, intimidation — all three of those are felonies.”

Buerkle said they also face misdemeanor charges of false alarms and criminal mischief.

No one was hurt in the altercation, he said. The pair appeared in Valley County Justice Court on Friday for the new charges, and bond was set at $150,000.

Witkowski, formerly a Shepherd resident, is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 2 after he pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide on Aug. 16. Charges say he stabbed 31-year-old Evelyn Garcia before hitting her with a tire iron and later a car.

Garcia's body was found on Jan. 30 on the side of a road outside Glasgow. She died days later.

It's unclear what effect these new charges might have on Witkowski's sentencing. In the meantime, Buerkle said his office is reviewing the incident.

"Detention center and sheriff's office are taking steps to try to prevent this from happening again," he said.


General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.