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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Monday, May 6, 2013

Jefferson City Woman Pleads Guilty to Attempted Jail Escape


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Jefferson City, Mo., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to her role in a conspiracy to help an inmate at the Morgan County jail in an unsuccessful escape attempt.

Amanda Leigh Lesh, 35, of Jefferson City, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth to the charge contained in a Dec. 13, 2012 federal indictment.

By pleading guilty today, Lesh admitted that she smuggled a hacksaw blade into the cell shared by Mitchell Atterberry, who was being held in the jail on federal charges related to distributing methamphetamine. Atterberry’s cellmate, Steven Pyykola of Springfield, was also part of the escape attempt. Pyykola was convicted of three state murder charges and is serving three consecutive life sentences without parole.

Sheriff’s deputies received a tip on Nov. 14, 2012 and searched Atterberry’s cell. They found that the window had been damaged. The metal support beam had been cut most of the way through. They also found a 10-inch saw blade in the mat on the top bunk of the cell and a smaller two-inch saw blade that appeared to have broken off the larger blade.

Authorities reviewed telephone calls that Atterberry and Pyykola made to Lesh, in which they asked her to purchase saw blades and deliver them to the jail underneath their second story window. Atterberry and Pyykola would then slide a string out of a hole that had been made in the window to the ground where Lesh would tie on the items and they would pull them up and in through the window. Lesh also made references to picking up the two after the escape and buying them clothes to wear.

On Nov. 13, 2012, Atterberry told Lesh in a recorded telephone conversation that they “worked on it late last night, couldn’t get it done” and in a later call that day said they hoped to get it done “by tonight.” The next day, authorities received the tip about the escape plans.

Under federal statutes, Lesh is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven R. Berry. It was investigated by the Morgan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the DEA.

Updated January 16, 2015