By MARGARET STAFFORD
Associated Press Writer
LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Some inmates at Lansing Correctional Facility knew Toby Young simply as "the Dog Lady."
She was the short woman with light brown hair and brown eyes who brought dogs destined for death to the prison to be trained so they could find new homes. In numerous media stories about the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program, Young, a dog trainer, spoke passionately about her desire to help both the dogs and the inmates improve their lives.
Now, the 48-year-old married mother of two adult sons is known around the country as the woman who allegedly used the program as a cover to help 27-year-old convicted murderer John Manard escape last Sunday.
Manard, one of the inmates who helped train the dogs, was frequently quoted in media stories in which he praised the program.
Prison officials, her family and those who worked with Young on the dog program are stunned and struggling for an explanation. Law enforcement bulletins say Young should be considered armed and dangerous, but prison officials also say they are deeply concerned for her safety.
No one knows exactly how it began, and authorities have declined to speculate on whether the pair are romantically involved, but investigators say they know this much:
At some point, Young and Manard put together an elaborate plan for the escape. It included Young getting together more than $10,000 in cash, taking two guns from her home, buying a vehicle and renting a storage area without her family’s knowledge, and even buying hair dye and an electric razor that could be used to alter appearances.
The two apparently talked seven other inmates into helping Manard get into a dog crate and loading the crate onto a van Young used to transport the dogs. Authorities say Young then calmly drove out of the prison.
The respect Young developed at the prison while running the program may have been central to the plot. The prison says two guards who were supposed to check the van before it left didn’t — apparently because they recognized and trusted Young.
So far, the plan has worked. Young and Manard, who was serving life in prison for the 1996 killing of Donald England in Overland Park, have disappeared and prison officials say they have no idea where they may be. The state has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to Manard’s arrest, and they acknowledge the two could be anywhere in the world by now.
Young’s family, including her firefighter husband, Pat, have refused all interview requests. On Tuesday, her father read an emotional statement saying the family "simply don’t have any ideas why or how this happened" but telling Young they loved her and pleading with her to come home.
People who worked with Young on the Safe Harbor program also have refused to talk to The Associated Press, with one saying they are too overwhelmed to discuss the case.
Corrections Department spokesman Bill Miskell said prison inmates and employees are "trying to grasp what has happened" and are struggling with the feeling that their trust was betrayed.
"Toby Young was well known and well liked by everyone," Miskell said. "It appears that her familiarity with the staff may have played a part in her ability to help John Manard escape."
Since the breakout was reported, prison officials have directed all questions to Miskell, who has consistently refused to speculate on Young’s possible motivations.
Training Young received on dealing with inmates made the boundaries between volunteers and inmates "extremely clear," Miskell said.
"Our training emphasizes to volunteers what they should and should not do for the inmates," he said. "There is no doubt that she knew the boundaries."
Similar situations in all types of institutions — not just prisons — generally involves people who are vulnerable in some way, which leads them to violate the boundaries of their relationships, said Margaret Severson, an associate professor of social welfare at the University of Kansas.
While speculation runs rampant in such cases, it is pointless until the facts are known, she said.
"We’re talking about human behavior and human emotions," she said. "To pretend that we can tell who might be prone to do something like this, that we can predict it, it’s an impossibility."
Severson said she is concerned that the long-term impact of such a widely publicized case will make people suspicious of the thousands of honest people who work hard to improve the lives of inmates.
"The people who staff and manage correctional institutions and thousands of volunteers are doing great things every day," she said. "No matter what we find out about what happened in Lansing, the impact will be unfortunate for all those people."
Miskell said Lansing officials still hope the impact of the case will not include ending the dog rehabilitation program. He said the program has proven valuable in socializing inmates and giving them incentive to follow rules.
The main problem, he said: No one can figure out how to keep the program running without Toby Young.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
These type of Prison Dog programs save countless shelter dogs lives every year and I can only pray that these programs all over the country will still continue to train and re-home shelter dogs, despite the ignorance of this one woman.