A warning by the Moulton police chief Wednesday that a missing 16-year-old could be in danger and in the company of a fugitive from the Morgan County Jail was reiterated Thursday by the Morgan County Sheriff's Office.

Missing since Sunday night, Peyton Bryleigh Ledlow, 16, a sophomore at Lawrence County High, has ties to escapee John Kaleb Gillespie, 30, a registered sex offender, authorities said.

“We believe there is a possibility that the missing teen could be with John Kaleb Gillespie,” said sheriff's spokesman Mike Swafford. “Due to the nature of the situation, we believe she could be in danger. We ask for anyone that has any information to please share it with law enforcement. … Investigators have information that leads us to believe this.”  

Relatives of Ledlow could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Thirty-seven days before his Sunday escape from the Morgan County Jail, Gillespie, who pleaded guilty to second-degree rape in 2009, sent a letter to the court claiming his innocence.

In the Sept. 16 letter to Morgan County Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell, Gillespie wrote he had completed 4½ years of his five-year probation period and he had paid all fines and fees.

“I have everything I need to prove (innocence) and I really need to be out helping my 77-year-old grandmother,” he wrote. “… (G)et me on the next court date docket possible so I can get this behind me.”

In the letter, he asked the judge to place him in the community corrections program. “I can and will complete it with no problem. I will not let you down if you give me a chance,” he wrote.

In an Oct. 11 letter, Gillespie's mother also pleaded on behalf of her son.

"Kaleb was 19 years old, still very much a child, and did not rape those two girls," she wrote. "I know my son better than anyone, he has clearly made mistakes growing up, as we all do throughout life."

One of those mistakes, according to Decatur police, was discovered Nov. 23, 2018, when they said he was found in possession of 2.2 pounds of marijuana. A search of his car in a Maaco repair shop three days later revealed 795 rounds of ammunition, including a loaded 30-round rifle magazine, police said in the complaint charging him with marijuana trafficking.

According to court records, Gillespie has been arrested and charged with more than 40 crimes since 2007.

Gillespie in 2009 was sentenced to 20 years in prison and five years probation after pleading guilty to a second-degree rape charge in Morgan County. However, 15 years of the sentence was suspended, court records show. Court documents indicate the charges stem from a statutory rape when Gillespie was 19.

Gillespie also was sentenced in 2009 to 10 years in prison and five years probation after pleading guilty to selling marijuana. Seven years of that prison sentence also was suspended.

The Sheriff’s Office said his recent arrest history includes trafficking illegal drugs, failing to register as a sex offender and a probation violation on the second-degree rape charge. According to court records, his last known address is on Harold Drive in Southwest Decatur, although police said the marijuana was found last November at a Daniel Street Southwest address.

Authorities asked anyone with information on the whereabouts of Gillespie or Ledlow to call 911. 

mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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