Police: Body of escaped Ohio inmate found in river

  • Two inmates escaped a correctional facility in Ohio by hiding in a dumpster
  • Police captured one inmate and found the other inmate's body in a river
  • Four people were placed on leave after the escape

Escaped inmates James Lee and Bradley Gillespie (Photo: Ohio State Highway Patrol)

(NewsNation) — The manhunt for two Ohio escaped inmates has come to an end with police capturing one inmate Wednesday in Kentucky and recovering the other inmate’s body from the Ohio River on Sunday.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, James Lee, 47, and Bradley Gillespie, 50, managed to escape the Allen/Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima on Tuesday “after concealing themselves in a dumpster.”

At around 3:16 a.m. Wednesday, a traffic stop in Henderson, Kentucky, turned into a police pursuit of a stolen car and foot chase. Authorities captured Lee, but Gillespie, a convicted murderer, remained at large.

In a news conference Sunday evening, Henderson Police Chief Sean McKinney announced preliminarily the body of Gillespie was found floating in the Ohio River close to his last known whereabouts.

“Today, I believe we have closure to our five-day manhunt,” McKinney said, later adding: “This is preliminary, but everything that we have seen and done has indicated that this is Mr. Gillespie that we have recovered.”

McKinney said a boater on the Ohio River called law enforcement at about 1:30 p.m. to report seeing something resembling a body floating in the river between Hayes Boat Ramp and the riverfront boat ramp.

“We are glad to have closure to the situation and event. However, I do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate death,” McKinney said.

Henderson police do not have a known time or cause of death, but reported the levels of decomposition were consistent with a body that had been in the water for around five days.

An autopsy is expected to be performed Tuesday. Gillespie’s family has been notified.

McKinney said the manhunt was the most intensive search he has ever been a part of with more than 1,600-man hours of searching involving door knocking, K9s, helicopters and boat patrols.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 26 years and it’s been the longest five days of my career, for sure. We turned over every stone. We searched and searched,” McKinney said.

Days before Gillespie’s was recovered, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction posted a video message of the escaped inmate’s daughter encouraging him to turn himself over to investigators.

“Hey Dad, if you’re hearing this, I’d prefer you turn yourself in before something bad happens. I want you in my life. I want you at my wedding. I don’t want anything bad to happen,” Gillespie’s daughter said in a video posted to social media by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “So, if you could please just turn yourself in before anybody gets hurt, I would appreciate it. We want you safe. We want you back. We want nothing bad to happen.”

Gillespie was convicted in a 2016 double homicide case. Before his capture, Lee had been serving time for breaking and entering, burglary and safecracking in Allen and Auglaize counties.

Lee was first discovered to be missing Tuesday morning after a prisoner count. An emergency count revealed that Gillespie was also on the run.

A major along with three corrections officers have been placed on paid administrative leave as the internal investigation into the escape continues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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