2 arrested after weekend-long search for man who escaped Van Zandt County custody

Crime & Public Safety

Photos: Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office

WILLS POINT, Texas (KETK) – Two Wills Point residents are behind bars Monday morning after a man escaped custody during an alleged domestic violence case Friday night.

Just after 9:30 p.m., Van Zandt County deputies responded to a “domestic disturbance” at a home in Wills Point. Ralph Hanselka, 38, was taken into custody at the scene because he already had a felony warrant out for his arrest.

Hanselka was placed into the passenger seat of a deputy’s car in handcuffs because the vehicle did not have the traditional cage as is common in most law enforcement patrol units. He then was able to undo the seat belt, open the passenger door, and escape.

Sheriff Steve Hendrix said that despite the escape, deputies had followed protocol on placing Hanselka in the front seat since there was no cage.

We inherited a fleet of patrol vehicles with no cages. We are already in the process of outfitting many of our current units with cages and as we purchase new vehicles, this will be standard equipment. Deputies appeared to have followed proper protocol when placing a prisoner into a patrol vehicle without a cage

Sheriff Steve Hendrix

A chase was immediately started, but Hanselka was able to escape Friday night. The next day, deputies were tipped off that he had returned to the house.

Deputies came back to the home, but Hanselka had left roughly an hour before they arrived. 48-year-old Joyce Brannon was arrested at the scene because she had allegedly harbored Hanselka during his escape, despite being told by deputies to contact them if he returned.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, he was arrested in Kauffman County at a home in Elmo. Hanselka was booked on several charges, including assaulting a family member by impeding their breathing, interfering with an emergency request for assistance and escaping while in custody. He is being held on a $280,000 bond,

Hendrix went on to add, “We are not playing around, if you run from us, we will catch you.” The sheriff also thanked the Wills Point police, Edgewood police, Texas Game Wardens, State Park Police, Texas DPS, the Pct.1 Constable’s Office and the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office.

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