- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A prisoner serving a life term who fled a Maryland hospital last week and led police on a wild, seven-hour pursuit that ended in his death, wrote in letters shortly before the escape that he didn’t plan on dying in prison.

Kelvin Poke, 45, wrote letters to his daughter and her mother about two weeks before he overpowered his guards Wednesday while he was being treated at Laurel Regional Hospital. He was serving a life prison term plus 40 years for a 2005 carjacking.

In the letters, Poke appeared to have lost hope of ever leaving prison even though he was appealing his sentence, said Rhonda Jackson, mother of his 22-year-old daughter, Dmeon Poke.

Poke felt he had been given a harsh sentence for the carjacking because of his earlier record, which included the robbery of a supermarket, Miss Jackson said. Miss Poke said that in retrospect, it was apparent her father was hinting to his plans.

Poke’s escape ended when police cornered him in a cemetery just outside the District. Police fatally shot him after he fired on them with a gun seized from one of the guards.

“He felt like they railroaded him,” Miss Jackson said yesterday. “He said he wasn’t dying in jail because he wasn’t born in jail.”

Poke, a prisoner at Jessup Correctional Institution, went to Laurel Regional on Monday complaining of chest pains. At the hospital, he was guarded by a two-man team of corrections officials.

While one of the guards was on a break Wednesday morning, Poke overpowered the second guard and seized his gun. Another armed guard tending to a different prisoner at the hospital rushed to the room and was also disarmed by Poke.

Poke then briefly took a hospital security guard hostage, carjacked the driver of a Toyota Camry waiting in front of the hospital and fled into the District. Police said that when the Camry broke down, he stole a city-owned pickup truck. Along the way, Poke also picked up a woman who police said had a history of prostitution. She was with him when he was killed, but was unharmed.

Miss Jackson said Poke had a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality, his dark side emerging especially when drugs and alcohol were involved. The woman who was with him in the cemetery told police they drove around looking for both Wednesday, but it was not clear if Poke was under the influence at any time during his flight.

Miss Jackson, who lived with Poke during the 1980s, once told Poke that they needed money to pay the rent. Without a job, Poke robbed a Safeway store to get the money, which Miss Jackson said shocked her. He was later convicted of armed robbery.

“That was my first glimpse into who he was,” said Miss Jackson, who stayed in touch with Poke while he was in prison.

In October 2005, Poke was arrested for carjacking a woman in Hyattsville. According to court records, he forced her into the car, stole $500 from her, and held her by the throat as he drove her around, eventually depositing her unharmed in the District. Police arrested him a few days later driving the stolen car. He told them it was a rental and that he was innocent.

Miss Poke said her father visited her with the stolen car before he was arrested. He told her he had come to say goodbye because he thought he would be going back to prison for the crime.

About two weeks ago, Miss Poke mailed her father photos of his 2-year-old grandson, born after he was imprisoned for the 2005 carjacking. Shortly afterward, she received a letter from Poke in which he “basically said his life was over.”

“I can see why he felt hopeless. He had life in prison,” Miss Poke said yesterday. “He didn’t have nothing.”

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