Patrol Was Waiting When Inmate's Wife Arrived With Criminal Tools

CALDWELL, Ohio (AP) - State Highway Patrol investigators were waiting at the Noble Correctional Institution when the wife of an inmate being released arrived to pick him up.

Troopers searched her car and found a ski mask, gloves, dark clothing and a handgun.

Inmate Michael Bowling, 30, never got out of the eastern Ohio prison. And his wife, Kathryn Bigham, 34, of Lancaster, wound up behind bars.

Both are charged with conspiring to commit armed robbery, taking a weapon onto the grounds of a prison and possessing criminal tools.

This happened on July 1, prison officials said Thursday.

They learned about the couple's plan in January but didn't act until Bigham arrived at the prison last month.

"You have to at least allow a portion of it to be played out in order to substantiate it," said Patrol spokesman, Lt. Gary Lewis. "His wife was doing the things that needed to be done to commit the act from outside the prison walls."

Authorities said Bowling slipped details of the alleged plot to Bigham in phone calls and letters.

It's no secret that the prison phones are tapped, prison spokesman Joel Burris said. Signs posted above phones read, "Warning: Phone calls may be monitored."

"He knew it, and for some reason he chose to ignore it," Burris said. "Obviously, if he's asking his wife to help, he just didn't think we were listening."

The prison parole board revoked its decision to release Bowling. He had been serving time on burglary, theft, and breaking and entering convictions.

Bowling could face 18½ years in prison if convicted. He already has spent more than nine years behind bars.

Bigham, who faces the same sentence, is being held in the Guernsey County jail in Cambridge.

Lewis said troopers still are trying to determine the couple's alleged target.

Caldwell is 80 miles east of Columbus.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)