Reward increased to $130K to find inmates accused of killing officers

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PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. - Two Georgia inmates who are as "dangerous beyond description" and wanted in connection with the deaths of two guards on a prison bus remained on the run early Wednesday as reward money for information leading to their arrests continued to grow.

Authorities said Donnie Russell Rowe, serving life without parole, and Ricky Dubose, who has prominent tattoos on his face and neck, were spotted twice on Tuesday after they overpowered, disarmed and killed Sgt. Christopher Monica, 42, and Sgt. Curtis Billue, 58, as the guards drove 33 inmates between prisons.

Authorities said the duo are now in white, 2008 Ford F-250, BCX 5372, standard cab with a dent in the right rear quarter panel and tool boxes down both sides.

The vehicle was taken from Morgan County in the Seven Islands Road area.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, officers found the green Honda the inmates were allegedly driving before they stole the truck. Authorities said the inmates carjacked the driver of the Honda minutes after shooting the officers. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said the car was found in a wooded area not far from the scene of a burglary in Morgan County.

The reward for information leading to the arrest of Rowe and Dubose has increased to $130,000, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said Thursday.

FBI tip line setup for anyone with information about the inmates: 877-WANTED2 (926-8332)

“This is the greatest effort I have ever seen, and it’s not just because of the crime. It’s because the public is in grave danger. These are serious, dangerous hoodlums that need to be apprehended," Sills said.

“I’ve worked in law enforcement in this state in some capacity for 44 years and I can tell you today, there has never been a reward that large,” Sills said,

FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge David LeValley said people throughout the state and country should be looking for the inmates.

"As long as they are out, they'll pose a threat to the communities they're in," LeValley said Thursday.

The FBI said it will put up billboards in several states starting Thursday.

Channel 2's Richard Elliot confirmed the convicts were cellmates and that the two may have planned the escape even though they didn't know they were being transferred. 

[DOWNLOAD: WSB-TV's news app for alerts on the escaped inmates]

Dozens of law enforcement officers from all around the state are searching for the two. They have formed a staging area outside the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office.

Sue Bailey, of Madison, was with her brother as they went to the office for an appointment Wednesday. She told Elliot that even with all of the officers at the scene, she still doesn’t feel safe.

“I think they don't have much to fear because they've already killed two people, so they don't have any problem killing somebody else,” Bailey said. “I was afraid to go home.”

Sills agreed that the two men are very dangerous.

“They've just murdered two corrections officers in a brutal fashion. They're not concerned with anything regarding human life,” Sills told Elliot Wednesday.

Law enforcement confirmed Rowe and Dubose were cellmates at Baldwin State Prison. Corrections officials cannot say for sure they did not plan this escape, although they stress the two should not have known they were being transferred Tuesday morning.

[READ: Departments send condolences after correctional officers killed]

Officials said Rowe and Dubose overpowered Monica and Billue, and shot them both to death.

The men then carjacked one driver, but later ditched that car for a pickup truck.

Bailey said everyone is holding their breath until the two are caught.

“This black stripe, it’s been on this badge more in the last year than ever before,” Sheriff Sills said Thursday, fighting back tears. “We’ve grown to expect this. We expect to be assassinated at any time.”

“It's kind of locked everybody down. Nobody wants to go shopping. Nobody wants to go to the bank-- to go anywhere because we don't know where they are,” Bailey told Elliot.

[READ: Slain officers know for 'unwavering commitment to their job']

Monica and Billue were both transfer sergeants at Baldwin State Prison. Monica had been with the Georgia Department of Corrections since October 2009 and Billue since July 2007.

Monica leaves behind a wife, Corrections Commissioner Greg Dozier said.

A family friend created a GoFundMe page for Monica's family.

Christopher Monica, 42. (Credit: WSB-TV)

Billue was 58 and is survived by his father, five sisters, two brothers and two sons, said Jim Green, an attorney who's speaking for the Billue family.

 

"Officer Billue's family asks for prayers for all of those who are now placing their own lives at risk to bring these men to justice and asks anyone who has information that may assist in apprehending these perpetrators to please contact law enforcement," Green said in an email.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal pledged every state resource necessary to catch the pair.

"The selflessness and courage of these two brave souls will not be forgotten, nor will their sacrifice and service," Deal said in an emailed statement.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said federal resources are being committed to help catch the fugitives. The FBI and U.S. Marshals have joined the investigation, Sills said.

Both escaped inmates were serving long sentences for armed robbery and other crimes. The Department of Corrections said Rowe has been serving life without parole since 2002, and Dubose began a 20-year sentence in 2015.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.