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Escaped Child Killer Captured Near Lake Elsinore

September 07, 1986

FONTANA — Escaped child killer Brian Keith Smith was captured without resistance in the Lake Elsinore area Saturday when two San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies recognized him as he walked up to use a public telephone next to them.

The capture of the 25-year-old truck driver ended an intensive search that had widened into adjoining Riverside and Los Angeles counties since Smith's escape from the San Bernardino County Central Jail on Thursday night.

Sgt. Pat English and Detective Roger McCoy had been dispatched to Riverside County on the basis of a tip that the fugitive had been seen in the Lake Elsinore-Perris area, Sheriff's Department spokesman Chico Rosales said.

Rosales said English had stopped at a pay phone around 3:30 p.m. to call in when Smith walked up to use a telephone. The sergeant nodded to McCoy, who had worked on the murder investigation, and they arrested the escapee.

"That was it," Rosales said. "We're happy because nothing happened (while he was out). Now, we have to go back and find out how he got out in the first place."

Smith walked out of the county jail about 10:30 p.m. Thursday during a visit by his parents, Marlene Fridley, 40, and Jerry Fridley, 48. He escaped by unscrewing a glass partition separating visitors from inmates in the visitors room. A sheriff's spokesman on Friday said, "We are the dumb guys in this thing" for allowing the visit to go unsupervised.

Smith somehow obtained a screwdriver to loosen the screws holding the partition in place. Then he climbed through the opening and walked out of the jail, leaving his jail-issued jump suit behind.

The Fridleys were later arrested on charges of aiding and abetting Smith's escape. They were released Friday night on $5,000 bail each.

It was the second time Smith had escaped. During his trial, he slipped out of a holding cell and was captured within minutes on the courthouse lawn.

Smith was convicted June 30 in the kidnaping and murder of 10-year-old Melissa Wakefield. The girl was abducted in the early hours of July 5, 1985, from her bed in a trailer outside her Fontana home.

Her body was found nearly a week later inside an ice chest buried on property owned by Smith near Phelan. The coroner said she had died of suffocation and heat exhaustion while being imprisoned in the ice chest. She had been sexually molested.

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