WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 04, 2011, 06:35 PM

Authorities search for escaped sex offender

Tower City, ND (WDAY TV) - An intense man hunt for what authorities are calling a desperate criminal is in its 5th hour near Tower City.

By: WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

An intense man hunt for what authorities are calling a desperate criminal is in its 5th hour near Tower City. A prisoner transport van heading from New Hampshire to California stopped at a rest area off of I-94, that’s when a prisoner, a high risk sex offender decided to make a run for it.

That man is identified as 29 year old Joseph Megna. He is a level 3 sex offender, and was being driven back to Washington to face new charges of child molestation and for criminal sexual assault.

The van carrying 7 prisoners stopped at this rest stop here. Authorities are telling us guards from Extradition Transport Company failed to secure a lock Joseph Megna was attached to in the van. One of the drivers actually took off running after Megna in to the field but quickly lost him. Now, authorities are in a desperate search to find a possible dangerous runaway.

29 year old Joseph Matthew Megna, a convicted sex offender in the state of Washington was arrested in Florida and being transported to a California jail, now's he's believed to be hiding out in a more than 500 acre corn field.

Don Fiebiger – Barnes County Chief Deputy: "Obviously at dark, perimeter is not going to make a difference because he could crawl on his belly. But we got the border patrol with their helicopter, and the highway patrol with their plan flaring too.

At least six law enforcement agencies are scouring the fields, and staked out along the interstate. Authorities say Megna is not armed but likely desperate and dangerous, a scary feeling for people looking on at the truck stop.

Chris Waters – Stopped At Rest Area: "It’s nuts, how they let somebody out like that, I just don’t know."

One of the drivers of the van tells us she escorted prisoners to the bathroom while the other guard was suppose to be on watch, but as she came out after a few minutes Megna and the other guard were gone.

Don Fiebiger: "Yes, he tracked him for quite a while, he went off in the Northeast direction, hit a slew, kind of lost some steam. So they don't know if he came back to the west or east but he was going north east."

As Megna still remains at large tonight, the unsettling feeling of a fugitive on loose is setting in here near Tower City.

Chris Walters: "I got kids, you don't want somebody like that on the lose"

This rest stop continues to be open but heavily guarded. Authorities say they have officers in the nearest towns of Valley and Tower City incase Megna did get that far. Authorities here tell us they will continue the search and all through the night if need be.