Official: Convicted killer who escaped state prison in June surrenders in western Arkansas

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BOONEVILLE, Arkansas — A convicted killer who escaped an Arkansas prison turned himself into authorities Thursday after about three months on the run.

Timothy Buffington escaped June 21 from the Pine Bluff Unit after stealing a shotgun from a house on the prison grounds where he'd been performing janitorial work. He was found more than 150 miles away Thursday — in the same area where he was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1998 shooting death of his ex-wife, Rhonda Combs.

Prison officials began searching the area Thursday morning after a resident in western Arkansas spotted Buffington and recognized him, Arkansas Department of Correction spokeswoman Shea Wilson said.

Later Thursday morning, Buffington went to a house and asked to call Booneville police to turn himself in, Wilson said. Shortly thereafter, Buffington surrendered to an Arkansas State Police trooper in the front yard of the home. Wilson said Buffington was dressed in camouflage clothing.

Prior to his escape, Buffington had no disciplinary infractions, prison officials said. Since 2003, Buffington had held a special status that let him work without constant supervision. Buffington would eat and sleep inside the prison but would work on the grounds, mowing lawns and doing janitorial work, Wilson said.

The Department of Correction is now evaluating that program and other internal policies because of the escape.

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