Tow-truck driver indicted on manslaughter, weapon charges, Feb. 18, 2011
Bluffton tow-truck driver fails in attempt to break out of jail, March 22, 2011
Penalty hearing postponed for tow-truck driver's failed jailbreak, March 24, 2011
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A Bluffton tow-truck driver jailed after a fatal Christmas Eve shooting will be placed in disciplinary segregation for 60 days after his failed escape attempt March 20.
As part of the segregation ordered Tuesday, Preston Oates will be housed alone in a cell and will be allowed out only one hour per day for recreation, according to Maj. Charles Allen, deputy director of the Beaufort County Detention Center.
The 60-day disciplinary action will begin as soon as Oates is released from suicide watch, where he was placed last week as a precautionary measure after he made a comment to an officer about harming himself, Allen said. Oates will meet with a mental health professional at the jail this week for an evaluation. After the evaluation, the psychologist will make a recommendation to the detention center's director, Philip Foot, who will then decide if and when Oates will be taken off suicide watch, Allen said.
"Any comment made by a prisoner about doing harm to themselves -- even if they just allude to it -- they are placed in suicide watch," Allen said. "The comment was made after he tried to escape. Once he's taken out of suicide watch, provided there is room in disciplinary status, he'll start his 60 days."
According to arrest warrants, Oates spent about 10 days cutting a 4- to 5-inch hole in the bottom half of the cell's 3-by-3-foot window using the metal faceplate from the cell's light switch. He was caught March 20 by a guard on routine patrol outside the jail who heard a grinding sound coming from Oates' window, according to authorities.
Oates is charged with malicious injury to property and attempted escape. His bond on both charges was set at $120,000, according to the jail log. A hearing date has been set for April 22, according to court documents.
If convicted, Oates faces up to 15 years in prison for trying to escape and up to 30 days in prison for damaging his cell, according to state law.
Oates, co-owner of Pro Tow, was charged with voluntary manslaughter and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime for allegedly shooting and killing Bluffton resident Carlos Olivera, 34, on Christmas Eve during a towing dispute.
Oates has been in the county jail since Dec. 27 and has been denied bond on the manslaughter charge.
If convicted, Oates faces up to 30 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and at least five years in prison on the weapons charge, according to state law.