Inmate flees work release

Island County and state officials are still looking for a man who ran away Thursday from his work release detail near Rhododendron Park south of Coupeville.

Sheriff’s detectives say that 52-year-old Calvin Lee Kaestner was picking up trash near the park when the supervisor lost sight of him. Russ Lindner, chief criminal deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s Office, said that Kaestner had approximately a 40-minute head start before law enforcement could begin its search.

“The X-factor here is we have an indication he may have been heading west,” Lindner said. “We’re just trying to anticipate somebody who is on foot.”

Kaestner had been in Island County Jail since April 29 on a first-degree theft charge, Island County Jail Chief De Dennis said.

“We’re just trying to rationalize what his motivation for running is,” Lindner said.

Kaestner, a Stanwood resident, had been sentenced on June 17 to six months for the theft charge, Dennis said. With time served, Kaestner would have been out in early August, he said.

More than a dozen deputies, State Patrol troopers and Coupeville deputy marshals spent Wednesday afternoon looking for the man, who is 6-feet-1-inch tall with graying hair and a thin mustache. Kaestner was wearing a jail-issued orange jumpsuit when he took off. Lindner said the man does not have any other identifying marks.

“We think he’s hunkered down, waiting to leave the area,” Dennis said.

Police have put out an all points bulletin for the man and anyone who sees him is asked to call 911. The Island County Prosecutor’s Office has issued a warrant for his arrest on escape charges.

A volunteer with the Island County Search Dog group also aided in the search, but was unable to find anyone hiding in the woods surrounding the park.

Lindner said the man has a son who lives in Mount Vernon, but he had not recently been in contact with his son. Kaestner also has an estranged wife in Lynwood.

Kaestner was originally charged with theft for running a bogus car lot, the now-defunct Cal’s Cars, on Goldie Road near Oak Harbor. According to Island County Superior Court documents, Kaestner missed at least four court hearings this year. He was charged with three separate counts of felony bail jumping.

Police have contacted several other people who associated with Kaestner, including an acquaintance he made while in jail, but they all have said he has not contacted them. Most of his contacts are off of Whidbey, Lindner said.

Dennis said that inmates in the work release program endure a two-level screening process before being allowed to participate. Since Kaestner had committed a non-violent crime, police are not considering him a risk.

“The guy was out there picking up trash on a beautiful day and decided it was time,” Dennis said.

Dennis said that this is the first time in the work release’s four-year history that an inmate has run away. The person in charge of the group was an employee of the Island County Parks Department.

Dennis said that the supervisor followed protocol in not giving chase. He contained the other members of the work group.

“We’ve had other people contemplate walking away,” Dennis said. “But the parks people did the right thing.”

As of Friday afternoon, Sherriff’s officials had scaled down the search efforts for Kaestner, but they continue to look for him.

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