Larch inmate who yearned for freedom gets longer sentence

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A 29-year-old inmate was sentenced Wednesday to an additional four years and four months in prison for escaping May 18 from Larch Corrections Center, about five miles east of Hockinson.

David D. McElroy pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree escape in exchange for a reduced charge. He was initially charged with first-degree escape, which carries an up to seven-year sentence.

“He has a pretty lengthy sentence ..., plus he already had a lengthy sentence he needed to complete,” said Vancouver attorney Mary Arden. “It’s unfortunate.”

McElroy had been in prison since Christmas Eve 2011 for two counts of burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle, stolen property and methamphetamine. He was scheduled to be released Nov. 1, 2016. He's now scheduled for release in February 2021.

McElroy apparently climbed on top of a garbage can to scale a nearly 10-foot fence at Larch. He used towels and a pillow to shield himself from the fence’s razor wire at the top. He made it about 18 miles through the Yacolt Burn State Forest before he was spotted.

“I wish I hadn’t done it,” McElroy told Clark County Superior Court Judge John Nichols Wednesday.

Brandy Boyer, a Department of Corrections officer, who was running late for work, spotted McElroy, in his prison-issued uniform, walking along Northeast Ward Road just past Northeast 88th Street on her way to the low-security prison.

When McElroy realized she saw him, he jumped a fence and hid in some blackberry bushes in the backyard of a house at 9422 N.E. Ward Road.

She called 911 to summon help in apprehending him and waited outside the front of a residence until officers with the Clark County Sheriff’s Department and Vancouver Police Department and a police dog responded. The three officers were able to take McElroy into custody, after the police dog bit him three times.