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Police: Fugitive's body found in Ohio River, days after recapture of fellow escapee

Police in Kentucky say they've pulled the body of a convicted murderer from the Ohio River, days after he escaped last week from an Ohio prison with another inmate.
Credit: AP
Henderson Police Chief Sean McKinney holds a press conference after officials pulled what they believe to be the body of escaped Ohio prisoner Bradley Gillespie from the Ohio River in Henderson, Ky., Sunday afternoon, May 28, 2023. The discovery of the body ends the five-day search in Henderson County for the convicted killer who reportedly escaped from the Allen/Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio, on Tuesday along with inmate James Lee. (MaCabe Brown/Evansville Courier & Press via AP)

HENDERSON, Ky. — A convicted murderer who escaped last week from a northwest Ohio prison with another inmate by hiding in a trash container was found dead Sunday after his body was spotted floating in the Ohio River, police in Kentucky said.

The discovery brought to a close a manhunt for the missing inmate, Bradley Gillespie, 50. Authorities said the other inmate James Lee, 47, was captured last Wednesday after the two escaped earlier in the week from the Allen/Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio.

Henderson Police Chief Sean McKinney said at a news conference that authorities got a call Sunday about a body floating in the river very near where Gillespie was last seen when his officers captured the other inmate during a pursuit and traffic stop on a stolen car. Gillespie, a passenger in the vehicle, fled on foot, prompting a multiday manhunt, he said.

"A preliminary investigation indicates we recovered the body of Bradley Gillespie from the river," McKinney said, adding police, firefighters, a coroner's office and others responded when the tip came in of a body in the river. Reports said tattoos and physical inspection helped with the preliminary identification.

McKinney said an autopsy is planned Tuesday.

Henderson is a city across the Ohio River from Indiana and about 350 miles (560 kilometers) southwest of Lima, Ohio, where authorities said the inmates escaped last Monday.

Lee was serving a sentence imposed in 2021 for burglary and safecracking. McKinney said Gillespie was imprisoned since 2016 and was convicted of a double homicide.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had said Friday afternoon that investigators determined the inmates left the correctional facility "after concealing themselves in a dumpster."

A major and three corrections officers have been placed on paid administrative leave and similar action may be taken against other people as the department's internal investigation continues, officials have said. A criminal investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol is also continuing.

The two men were reported missing from the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio on Tuesday, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. 

Lee was discovered missing during a prisoner count at 11 a.m. Tuesday, prompting an emergency prisoner count that revealed Gillespie was also missing. Authorities later determined the two men were last seen on surveillance video inside the facility just after 8:40 a.m. Monday.

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