CAMDEN, AL (WSFA) - There he was. Steven Stacey, dressed in his orange jail outfit, sitting on the planter box in front of the Wilcox County Courthouse Friday afternoon. The cell phone photo was taken by a passing motorist about 100 hundred feet away. The sheriff admitted it should not have happened.
"And he just pulled him out without thinking what happened," said Wilcox County Sheriff Earnest Evans.
Stacey is facing a felony charge of abusing his girlfriend's body seven months ago. Christy Gaston, 55, died on Christmas Day. It's not clear how she died, but Stacey allegedly wrapped her body in a blanket and didn't call authorities for at least five days.
He was initially charged with murder but court records show that charge was d ropped in May. It's not clear why. What is clear is the corrections officer didn't get approval from the sheriff to use Stacey to cut the grass at the courthouse.
Evans says once he was made aware of that fact, he ordered Stacey back in jail immediately.
"He could have escaped," the sheriff said while promising not to let something like this happen again. However, he has chosen not to reprimand the corrections officer involved.
"He thought about what happened and he called me and said he made a mistake. He apologized," the sheriff explained.
Evans says the corrections officer in question plans to retire in two weeks, but the officer's retirement has nothing to do with what happened in regards to Stacey. The sheriff says this was planned long before the situation on Friday.
Evans said the officer in question is a 35-year employee and he spoke highly of the veteran lawman.
Stacey never made any attempts to flee during his temporary freedom. He was always guarded just as he is now in the Wilcox County jail.
Several attempts to reach District Attorney Michael Jackson for comment have been unsuccessful.