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Kentucky inmate turns himself in after surviving deadly tornado strike on candle factory

Francisco Starks was briefly at large after being treated and released from a hospital, police said.

An inmate who was working in a Kentucky candle factory when a tornado ripped the building apart has turned himself in after walking out of the hospital where he was treated for his injuries, according to police.

Francisco Starks, 44, was working at Mayfield Consumer Products' candle factory as part of a work release program when a tornado tore through, according to Kentucky State Police.

The Graves County inmate survived the destruction and was treated at the nearby Jackson Purchase Medical Center, police said. When he was released from the hospital, he walked out, they said.

In a one-line update posted to its website Monday, the Kentucky State Police said Starks turned himself in to the Calloway County Jail.

Starks' attorney said he never had any intention of fleeing.

When the tornado ripped through the factory, Starks' supervisor was killed, said the attorney, Madison Leach.

Starks suffered injuries to his neck, back and leg. When he was released from the hospital, she said, he didn't know where to go. There was no jailer at the hospital, his supervisor was dead and the phone lines were down at the courthouse and jail, which had also been hit by the storm.

"He had no idea what to do," Leach told NBC News. "Due to his injuries when he reached out to me I picked him [up] and took him to a jail in a nearby county for him to turn himself in."

"He is traumatized after watching the deputy pass away and sustaining injuries," she said. "He didn't escape jail. He escaped death."

She added that workers should have been released from the candle factory when all indications pointed toward a bad storm approaching.

Five candle factory workers said Monday that supervisors warned employees that they would be fired if they left their shifts early. Company officials denied the allegations.

At least eight people died in the Mayfield Consumer Products factory.

Reached by telephone Monday evening, the KSP declined to comment further on whether Starks was lost in the post-disaster chaos or whether he had attempted to escape. The department did not respond to an additional request for comment Tuesday.

Starks is serving time for third-degree burglary, theft by unlawful taking of an automobile and receiving stolen property, according to police.

The town of Mayfield was decimated in one of the deadly tornadoes that tore through six states across the Mississippi Valley overnight Friday into the early hours of Saturday.

The devastating outbreak, which included more than 30 tornado reports, is an extremely rare event this late in the year.

As of Monday evening, 74 people had been confirmed dead in Kentucky following the storm, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said.

Beshear said the death toll would likely rise.