Prison kitchen worker says she was coerced into helping escapees

A kitchen worker at Columbia Correctional Institution is charged with two felonies in connection with the escape of two inmates.

Holly Marie Zimdahl, 46, of rural Pardeeville appeared in Columbia County Court Tuesday afternoon.

Zimdahl is charged with two felonies -- escape, criminal arrest and delivering illegal articles to an inmate.

The judge set a $10,000 signature bond.

The two inmates Zimdahl is accused of helping, Thomas E. Deering, 45, and James Robert Newman, 36, scaled fences just before 5 a.m. April 16 to break out of the prison.

Zimdahl, who works in the prison kitchen, told investigators that in February she began getting notes in the kitchen to bring things and hide them in various places.

According to the criminal complaint, Zimdahl told investigators that she didn't know who was leaving her the notes, but they were threatening her family members.

Zimdahl told investigators that sometimes she was told to put things into the milk cooler, sometimes under a crate and sometimes under the pallets.

According to the complaint, Zimdahl said that she knew it was wrong.

A search of Zimdahl's car turned up two cellular phones; $1,400 in crisp $100 bills.

According to the criminal complaint, authorities also found a handwritten note that said:

Insulated Carbide Tipped Electric Fence Cutters that can cut through 1/8”

galvanized steel fencing. They have them at for $50.00, or you

can get them at Home Depot-Lowe’s-or Farm & Fleet.

The sheriff's office says the two inmates started their escape from CCI at 4:25 a.m. and were over both fences at 4:35 a.m.

They believe a vehicle picked up Deering and Newman at 5:54 a.m. that morning at the Poynette Piggly Wiggly and traveled south on Highway 51 leaving Poynette.

The two inmates were arrested Friday morning after showing up at a Rockford, Illinois nonprofit, cold and asking for help.

To read more go to WKOW

Photo: WKOW

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