A man convicted of a 1997 murder in Omaha has escaped from the state prison system.

Anthony Gafford, 40, walked away from his work-release program Saturday in Lincoln, according to information that the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services provided the Lincoln Police Department.

Gafford was sent to prison for killing 16-year-old Jacque Holbert in 1997. This month, Holbert’s grown son, 21-year-old Jacque S. “Jack” Holbert IV, was shot and killed while sleeping in a home near 38th and Burdette Streets.

Lincoln Police Capt. Todd Kocian said the department was notified that Gafford left the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln at 6 a.m. Saturday to report to work and never returned.

The Community Corrections Centers are the least restrictive facilities in the prison system, and people confined there are able to work and study in the community. Gafford had been housed in that facility since May. 

Gafford was 19 when he was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Jacque Holbert. He was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison and was due to be released Dec. 11, 2022, according to state prison records.

His next parole hearing was scheduled for April. He had been paroled twice previously and had his parole revoked both times, according to the state. He most recently was sent back to the state prison system in July 2017.

Gafford shot Jacque Holbert on Sept. 15, 1997, after Holbert stared him down as their vehicles passed each other, court records indicate. Gafford got out of his vehicle and shot Holbert in the chest, according to court testimony.

Holbert's son, Jack Holbert, was shot and killed Jan. 20 — six days before Gafford escaped. No arrests have been made in the case.

Nebraska Prison Director Scott Frakes said the "victim contact" listed in the state's files had been contacted.

A representative of the Holbert family said the family is focused on dealing with the younger Holbert’s death. Jack Holbert’s funeral was on Tuesday afternoon.

Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.