Escaped Patient Prompts Concern in Shorewood Hills

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Police searched the Shorewood Hills community on Tuesday after a man escaped from sheriff's employees transporting him to UW Hospital on Monday night.

The workers were transporting the man to UW Hospital's psychiatric unit, but he managed to push one of them away and take off. He was last seen in the Shorewood Hills and Eagle Heights areas.

"We live near a woods, which is a place somebody can lose themselves in," Karen Icke said.

Neighbors say their picturesque Shorewood Hills community offers plenty of places to hide.

"I was told one time when I was a little concerned about someone I saw that I should be carrying a cell phone when I walk alone in the woods. We are told to be cautious, and especially now," Icke said.

UW police say a man who escaped a Sauk County transport vehicle was last seen in the Shorewood Hills-Eagles Heights area. Around 5:30 p.m. on Monday night, the vehicle was dropping off 31-year-old Joseph Mercer at UW Hospital's psychiatric unit. The Sauk County Sheriff's Office says he escaped from unarmed civilian transport personnel.

"We're getting out the word. We have officers actively searching the area because it's known to us that he likes to be in the woods and live off the land," UW Police Sgt. Jason Whitney said.

Mary Ellen Thomas has lived in the neighborhood since childhood.

"There's a sizeable cave we used to crawl in and a cave on top of the hill. You can curl back in there. We used to do it when we were young," she said.

Thomas says she plans to spend extra time with her elderly parents whose home backs up to a woods dotted with some old sheds.

"My husband called the police. We just wanted to make sure he wasn't hiding in there," she said.

Joseph Mercer is described as white, 5’9” tall with brown hair and eyes and weighing 165 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray fleece coat and tan corduroy pants. Police say he fled also wearing handcuffs and waist restraints.

"We have no known history that he's violent or been violent in the past," Whitney said.

UW Police spent part of the day checking boathouses, wooded areas and updating people who live nearby.

"I won't leave them alone for very long today until they find him," Thomas said.

Mercer has no violent history, but police do not want people approaching him. The Sauk County Sheriff's Office says it will conduct an internal investigation of the incident.

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