Body of Ohio prison break fugitive recovered, police say

<span>Photograph: Andri Tambunan/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Andri Tambunan/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities believe they found the body of a convicted killer who escaped an Ohio prison by hiding in a trash container, they said Sunday.

The search for Bradley Gillespie began last week when he and another man incarcerated at Allen-Oakwood correctional institution in Lima, Ohio, James Lee, were discovered missing, according to reports.

When Gillespie, 50, and Lee, 47, were not present for a prisoner count that morning, authorities determined that they were last seen on surveillance video shortly before 9am last Monday. Gillespie and Lee left the prison “after concealing themselves in a dumpster” on Tuesday morning, NBC News reported corrections officials as saying.

Bradley Gillespie (left) and James Lee.
Bradley Gillespie (left) and James Lee. Photograph: AP

Prison authorities had conducted a total of seven headcounts before realizing the two men were missing, giving them a 27-hour head start before authorities launched a search for them, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Police caught Lee in Henderson, Kentucky, on Wednesday after pursuing a stolen car. Lee was in the car, and officials think that Gillespie was also present, according to reports.

The car crashed and both men took off on foot. Officers arrested Lee, but Gillespie evaded capture, authorities reportedly said.

Authorities over the weekend were still searching for Gillespie, using infrared-equipped helicopters and lower-tech methods such as dogs and ground inquiries, as well as police boats in the Ohio River scouring shores and islands, NBC News noted.

“We’ve been going around the clock,” said Henderson’s police chief, Sean McKinney.

As the search continued, Gillespie’s daughter publicly asked her father to surrender, in a recorded statement.

“I want you in my life. I want you at my wedding. I don’t want anything bad to happen so if you could please just turn yourself in before anybody gets hurt, I would appreciate it,” the Columbus Dispatch quoted her as saying. “We want you safe, we want you back.”

At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, Henderson authorities said that they recovered a body from the Ohio River that is believed to be Gillepsie. A boater saw the body and contacted authorities, CBS News reported.

The body was discovered near Gillespie’s last known whereabouts. Authorities will conduct an autopsy on Tuesday, officials reportedly said.

Gillespie was convicted of two murder counts in 2016 and sentenced to a maximum of two consecutive life terms, and is considered dangerous to the public at large. Lee was convicted in 2021 of burglary and safecracking, according to the Fort Wayne, Indiana, news outlet WANE 15.