A missing Moulton teenager could be in danger with a Morgan County Jail escapee, who is a registered sex offender, according to the Moulton police chief.
Chief Lyndon McWhorter said Peyton Bryleigh Ledlow, 16, was reported missing Monday afternoon. McWhorter said the Lawrence County High School sophomore knows John Kaleb Gillespie, 30, who escaped from the Morgan County Jail on Sunday afternoon.
“I believe there’s a possibility she’s with him, and if she is she could be in danger based on our past dealings with him eluding law enforcement,” McWhorter said.
He said he doesn’t know for certain if Ledlow has been with Gillespie since his escape. “We know they were acquaintances, but don’t know if she’s with him,” he added.
Ledlow’s uncle, Randall Ledlow, said Peyton was last seen about 9 p.m. Sunday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, McWhorter said, his department has not received any leads on Ledlow’s whereabouts.
The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said Ledlow could be traveling in a white 2008 Ford Fusion with Alabama license plate 5405BB0.
Ledlow is 5-feet-5, weighs 112 pounds and has brown eyes and brown hair.
Lawrence County Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said the school system is praying for Ledlow’s safe return.
“Our prayers go out to Peyton and her family,” he said. “We trust and pray we’ll see her safe and sound very soon.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office at 256-974-9291.
Gillespie is also linked to a different juvenile female who visited and telephoned him while in the Morgan County Jail, according to an affidavit filed in Morgan District Court on June 4.
Sheriff's Lt. Garry W. Landers said that on May 28, Gillespie attempted to have a cellphone and cigar brought to him in the Morgan County Jail.
“Gillespie was heard on jail phone several times planning with juvenile how to get herself and contraband into the jail. Juvenile did make it into the jail but was caught by jail staff,” the affidavit reads.
The juvenile was turned over to her legal guardian and grandmother, the affidavit said.
In that case, Gillespie was charged with attempting to promote jail contraband, a misdemeanor, with bail set at $300.
The mother of Gillespie's child last year sought and received a protection-from-abuse order against Gillespie in Morgan County Circuit Court after alleging he had threatened her numerous times.
The Morgan Sheriff’s Office believes a fellow inmate boosted Gillespie up a 20- to 30-foot high wall in the recreation area of the jail Sunday afternoon. Gillespie apparently had tied bedsheets together to drop down on the outside east wall about 12:23 p.m. Sunday.
Sheriff's spokesman Mike Swafford said Gillespie was last seen running north toward the Morgan County Courthouse. Swafford said a normal shift size of between 25 and 30 correctional officers was on duty at the time Gillespie escaped.
“We’ve had multiple leads and are working closely with the Moulton Police Department on the missing girl and Gillespie investigation,” he said. “We don’t know if they’re together.”
The Alabama Department of Corrections K-9 officers will be brought back to aid in the search if a credible tip is received, Swafford said.
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 second-degree rape. According to court records, his last known address is on Harold Drive in Southwest Decatur.
Gillespie, who according to McWhorter tried to run over a state trooper in November, was captured later that month at a residence in Decatur after a five-hour standoff, according to authorities. The Moulton and Decatur police departments, U.S. Marshals Service and Lawrence County Drug Task Force participated in his arrest.
McWhorter said at the time that a nationwide search was conducted to apprehend Gillespie, who was wanted on several charges including drug trafficking.
McWhorter said a Camaro matching a description of a vehicle driven by Gillespie was under a car cover at a residence on Daniel Street Southwest in Decatur, behind the former Brookhaven Middle School. The Morgan County District Attorney's Office in December filed a civil action seeking forfeiture of the Camaro and of $25,340 in cash allegedly obtained by Gillespie through marijuana sales.