Man charged with prison escape pleads not guilty

Inmate chooses to act as own attorney

Mark David Vannausdle

Mark David Vannausdle

PORT TOWNSEND — A man charged with first-degree escape from a minimum-security prison this summer has chosen to represent himself.

Mark David Vannausdle, 61, pleaded not guilty on Friday in Jefferson County Superior Court after Judge Keith Harper questioned his intent to waive his right to defense counsel.

Harper assigned Jefferson Associated Counsel as a standby, but he agreed to allow Vannausdle to act as his own attorney.

“I am unequivocal on that,” Vannausdle said of his intent to represent himself.

First-degree escape is a Class B felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.

A trial was scheduled to begin Feb. 18.

Vannausdle, who was transported Tuesday from the state penitentiary in Walla Walla, asked to remain in the Jefferson County Jail so he can prepare his own defense.

Harper agreed with Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Ashcraft to set a $25,000 bond, with the caveat that Vannausdle be sent back to the state Department of Corrections if he posted the funds.

Vannausdle said he planned to remain in jail.

Harper denied the state’s request during a motion hearing Thursday to have Vannausdle appear in shackles based on his history of escape.

The judge also told Vannausdle that any sentence, if convicted, would run consecutively with the remainder of his 20-year sentence.

He had a release date tentatively set for Jan. 1, 2021, after he was convicted of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery with a firearm enhancement in Pierce County in 2002, according to court records.

Vannausdle was then convicted in 2004 of trying to escape from the McNeil Island Corrections Center.

He was transferred to Olympic Corrections Center, about 27 miles south of Forks, in 2017, according to court documents.

On Aug. 11, a report from Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy Joe Pursley stated Vannausdle ran across the road and into the woods about 7 a.m. when he was supposed to be transported to the cafeteria for breakfast.

Vannausdle reportedly was upset that other inmates at the facility had been harassing him and the prison staff members weren’t stopping it.

He also said he needs special conditions in order to sleep, and prison staff wasn’t accommodating his needs, according to court documents.

Vannausdle said he decided to escape after he was moved from one unit to another on Aug. 10 despite protesting, according to court records.

Evidence collected when Vannausdle was captured two days later included a makeshift backpack made from a Department of Corrections-issued supply bag with two belts used as straps, according to court documents.

Vannausdle said he planned to go to Forks and eventually Port Angeles, but he hurt his hip when he stumbled and decided to return and turn himself in, court records stated.

Vannausdle spent two days out of the facility before a Port Angeles construction worker located him as he arrived at a job site less than 2 miles from the prison.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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