Joel Cooper was one of three inmates who escaped from the Wakulla jail back in 2017

Joel Cooper

Staff Report

Joel Cooper, one of the three Wakulla County Jail inmates who escaped back in 2017 and was on the run for almost a year, was sentenced last week to 15 years in state prison for the escape.

Cooper, who is currently serving a 30 year prison sentence for burglary, will serve the sentence for escape consecutive to that.
Cooper was being held at the jail on burglary charges when he and two other inmates found a place in the law library where they could not been seen by jail cameras.

On Nov. 17, 2017, Cooper and inmates Donald Cotterman, in jail on charges of armed burglary, and Casey Martina, also being held for burglary, climbed into the ceiling of the law library and found there was unsecured access to non-jail part of the building. They dropped down into a bathroom and then walked out the front door.
A manhunt ensued, and the trio was traced to North Carolina. Martina was arrested there about a week after the escape.
Cooper and Cotterman remained on the run, and were suspected in several ATM heists and home burglaries.
Cooper and Cotterman were captured separately in March 2018.
Cotterman was less than 50 miles from Mexico – he was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals at a motel in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Cooper had been taken into custody sometime earlier by Marshals in Arizona, but they kept his capture quiet so as not to tip off Cotterman.
Cooper had been set to go to trial on the escape charge on Thursday, Jan. 18, but decided to accept a plea deal of 15 years in prison. He received credit for 2,148 days served on the sentence.
Sentences for escape are required to be served consecutive to any other sentence. With the credit for time served, it has the effect of reducing Cooper’s sentence to 9 years.