Two Louisiana prison escapees passed themselves off to University of Tennessee students as fraternity brothers escaping hurricane Katrina. Steven Ridge, 31, and Zachary Arabie, 22 (pictured), were arrested in Knoxville Tennesee last week when Ridge tried to pass a counterfeit bill. The two fugitives hung out on the 25,000-student campus, partying on Fraternity Row, dating coeds and renting an apartment in a favorite off-campus neighborhood. Ridge, serving time for forgery and theft, and Arabie, in prison for armed robbery, escaped Sept. 13 from River Correctional Facility in Ferriday, La. They whittled a Popsicle stick into a key to gain access to the outside world. "These men have been here a good while, never caused us a minute's trouble, and neither one of them is deemed dangerous to the public," River Correctional Facility Warden Rick Spinner stated in a news release issued immediately after the escape. The Knoxville authorities take another view, stating the two criminals were planning an abduction among other crimes.
According to Knoxville police, Ridge and Arabie stole a car and traveled to Birmingham Alabama, then stole another car to drive to Knoxville. They showed up using fake names at the UT Lambda Chi fraternity house a few days after escaping. Ridge claimed to be a Louisiana State University graduate and a Lambda Chi displaced by Katrina from a graduate program at Tulane University in New Orleans. He even had a Tulane ID card. "It's genius, their plan, it was really genius," said fraternity president Sam Seyler, a fifth-year senior studying English.
The perception of genius is relative.