Massive Manhunt Continues for Escaped Rhode Island Inmate

iStock/Thinkstock(CENTER FALLS, R.I.) -- A massive manhunt continued Tuesday for an inmate who escaped a maximum security prison in northeast Rhode Island over the weekend, according to federal and state officials in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

James Morales, 35, escaped from the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Center Falls, Rhode Island, this past Saturday, Dec. 31, around 6:45 p.m., Massachusetts State Police said in a wanted poster released Tuesday.

Officials said Morales broke out of the prison by climbing a basketball hoop to reach a rooftop, cutting through a fence and then climbing through razor wire, reported ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston.

Morales had been in federal custody for the "theft of numerous firearms from the Worcester Army Reserve Armory in 2015," and he is wanted "for an alleged violent and brutal sexual assault of a child," Massachusetts State Police said.

Morales "may have suffered significant lacerations during his escape," according to Massachusetts State Police. Authorities noted that he was last seen wearing "gray sweatpants, a gray sweatshirt and black sneakers," and "had a beard at the time of the escape and has balding/shaved brown hair."

Morales also has a "large tattoo of an eagle on the left side of his neck" and "additional tattoos on his chest, arms and hands," Massachusetts State Police added.

Jamie Hainsworth, U.S. Marshal for the district of Rhode Island, said at a news conference this afternoon that law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels were working "around the clock" to catch Morales.

"Mr. Morales has the potential to be dangerous and could be armed," Hainsworth said. He urged anyone who encounters Morales not to approach him and to instead call 911.

Hainsworth also asked anyone with information to please call a hotline established by the U.S. Marshals Service at 1-800-336-0102.

While Hainsworth repeatedly said at the news conference Tuesday that authorities' current priority is to catch Morales, he noted that they would also take a "hard look" at the procedures of the prison Morales escaped from and investigate whether the community of Center Falls was properly and timely notified of the escape.

According to Hainsworth, Morales was only discovered missing by prison staff at 10 p.m. on Dec. 31 -- about three hours after he escaped.

Hainsworth declined to talk about specific details of Morales' escape and the evidence collected in the manhunt and investigation so far.

When asked by reporters what he wanted to say to Morales, Hainsworth said, "Turn yourself in."

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