RACINE - Awaiting trial for two counts of first-degree murder, Wendell McPherson started digging his way out of the Racine County Jail more than a month ago.

That's when jail officials say he started chipping away at the mortar holding together the bricks in his cell, using a toenail clipper. Eventually, two other inmates - Brian Sullivan, awaiting trial on charges of issuing worthless checks and burglary, and John Ohlinger, an accused pedophile - joined McPherson in the plan.

The three men were well on their to succeeding - they had dug through an inner wall and were trying to breach the outer wall - when jail officials discovered their plot on March 14, according to Racine County Circuit Court records. They were charged Monday with conspiracy to escape and being parties to criminal damage to property.