CHOWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — A 47-year-old inmate escaped the Chowan County Detention Center.

The Chowan County Sheriff’s Office identified the inmate as Russell Jay Heath, who was being held for non-violent, financial-related crimes.

WAVY News spoke with Chief Deputy John McArthur, who confirmed some specifics of what unfolded Wednesday night.

Heath was cleaning his cell when two guards came by to get the supplies. He had created a shank from a toothbrush, and McArthur says he threatened the guards with it, then stole their cell phone(s) and locked them up.

“He attacked them and pushed them into a holding cell, took the keys, then came through this side of the jail and then out,” says Chief Sheriff’s Deputy McArthur. 

Since the guards were left with no way to call for help, it wasn’t until the next shift change that they were discovered.

Surveillance photos show Heath was also able to get a ring of keys during the escape.

The escape happened around 9:30 p.m., according to the sheriff’s office, but it wasn’t until 5:30 a.m. Thursday that Heath was reported to have escaped.

Russell Heath (Courtesy of Chowan County Sheriff’s Office)

The sheriff’s office says Heath is about 6 feet tall and 190 pounds.

He left the jail wearing khaki pants, a blue flannel shirt, eyeglasses and white T-shirt, surveillance photos from inside the jail show. He was also wearing socks but no shoes.

“The only way this could not have happened, had they not gone in there and given him the cleaning supplies; however procedures require these inmates must be able to clean,” said McArthur. 

State and federal law enforcement assistance has been requested to help track down Heath. Those with information are asked to call the Chowan County Sheriff’s Office at 252-482-8484.