An inmate who was being transported from the Lawrence County jail to the Vernon County jail had a brief moment of freedom on Monday.

Inmate Mike Jones, who has been charged with first degree murder, was being housed at the Vernon County jail due to overcrowding issues at the Lawrence County facility. Jones was transported to Lawrence County for a court appearance on Monday, after which he was awaiting transport back to Vernon County.

Jones, along with other inmates, were being placed into the Vernon County transport van outside the Lawrence County jail. While the Vernon County deputy was securing the other inmates, Jones, who was belly-chained, took advantage of the deputy's divided attention and fled the scene.

The deputy gave a short chase and lost sight of Jones. The Vernon County deputy then returned to the Lawrence County jail to report the escape. Immediately, area law enforcement was notified of the escape and assistance was requested.

Law enforcement from Lawrence County including the Lawrence County Auxiliary, Mt. Vernon, Joplin, Wheaton, Miller, Monett, Aurora/Marionville and Verona police departments; Missouri State Highway Patrol; Missouri Department of Conservation; and Dade, Jasper, Greene, Christian, Webster and Stone County sheriffs' offices assisted by providing manpower, aerial drones, K-9 units, aircraft and thermal cameras.

A search of the immediate area was conducted, and a short time later a Lawrence County deputy who was walking alleyways located the suspect in a brush pile behind a burned out residence near the intersection of Cherry and McCanse in Mt. Vernon.

The deputy announced he had located the suspect and requested assistance. Several citizens who were also on the look out for Jones heard the deputy's request for assistance and responded on foot to help.

Jones was then taken into custody without incident and transported to the Lawrence County jail. From there, he was transferred back to Vernon County.