D191029 inmate escape

Morgan County Jail officials theorize John Kaleb Gillespie used these bedsheets tied together to help lower himself closer to the ground after getting to the top of a wall surrounding the outdoor break area. Details on the escape are in a video at decaturdaily.com. [MORGAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE PHOTO]

While local and state authorities searched for a Morgan County Jail escapee late Monday, sheriff's investigators are reviewing video to help ensure another escape doesn’t happen.

Meanwhile, a Lawrence County Jail inmate who escaped early Sunday morning is back behind bars.

Morgan sheriff's spokesman Mike Swafford said John Kaleb Gillespie, 30, a registered sex offender, apparently used bedsheets to help him find freedom Sunday afternoon. Gillespie is deemed dangerous and has a violent history with law enforcement.

“This is the first successful escape from inside the secure area of the Morgan County Jail,” Swafford said. “We’ll look at it and see that it doesn’t happen again.”

Swafford said Gillespie likely had been missing 45 minutes before his absence was suspected. “We could come up with a 100 different theories; we don’t actually know (how he got away),” he said.

Swafford said it appears Gillespie went to the recreation area of the jail and climbed the steep wall after getting a boost from a fellow inmate, then used the bedsheets “to get down more safely.” He said Gillespie may have had the tied bedsheets wrapped around him under his jail clothes.

Swafford said the climb and drop were each between 20 to 30 feet. The surveillance video doesn’t show what Gillespie grabbed to climb the wall, Swafford said, and he exited on the east side of the jail. Gillespie ran toward the courthouse about 12:23 p.m. Sunday, Swafford said.

About two hours after the escape, hundreds of marchers strolled past the jail in the 10th annual Lee Lott Power of Pink Walk, but were not notified of the escape, Swafford said.

He said jail inmates are often in the recreation yard “to get some sunlight and smoke a cigarette.” He said they are monitored on video at all times. “Investigators are looking over (the video) and seeing what they can glean from it,” he said.

Tracking dogs from the Alabama Department of Corrections are being used in the search.

Gillespie is described as 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds. According to court records he has been arrested and charged with more than 40 crimes since 2007. The Sheriff’s Office said his recent arrest history includes attempting to promote prison contraband, 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 in 2009 was sentenced to 20 years in prison and five years probation after pleading guilty to the second-degree rape charge in Morgan County. However, 15 years of the sentence was suspended, court records show.

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 urged anyone seeing Gillespie not to approach him, but to call 911 immediately.

Gillespie, who allegedly tried to run over a state trooper last 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. 

Moulton Police Chief Lyndon McWhorter said at the time that a nationwide search was conducted to apprehend Gillespie, who was wanted on several charges including attempted murder and 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.

The November arrest came after Gillespie tried to run over a state trooper with a black Chevy Tahoe during a traffic stop, according to authorities. McWhorter said multiple shots were fired at Gillespie and the truck as he sped away from authorities in the Caddo community of the East Lawrence area Nov. 3, 2018.

McWhorter said Gillespie abandoned his truck on Lawrence County 345 and fled into a wooded area. According to McWhorter, remaining in the truck was a backpack containing 24 ounces of crystal methamphetamine, a pound of marijuana, $17,120 in cash and ammunition for a 9mm handgun.

Gillespie also was able to flee authorities in other chases, McWhorter said last year.


Lawrence escape

In the Lawrence County capture, authorities apprehended John Allen York, 28, about 11 a.m. Monday in a business less than a quarter mile from the county jail, according to a statement from the Sheriff's Office. 

"During the search, a local business was checked and York was found inside," the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office said. York has been charged with third-degree burglary and third-degree escape.

The Sheriff's Office also charged Harry Boughter, 40, with third-degree attempted escape. According to court records, Boughter, of Sebree, Kentucky, was in jail on theft and burglary charges. Bail on his attempted escape charge is $15,000.

Both York and Boughter were initially detained with the arrests of several individuals on Pinhook Road in Moulton on Sept. 23.

The Sheriff’s Office said York escaped from the jail about 2 a.m. Sunday by climbing over a security razor fence. Authorities said Boughter was apprehended in the escape.

York was jailed on six felony drug and property charges in the Pinhook Road arrests. Charges include possession of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment, third-degree burglary, first-degree receiving stolen property, second-degree theft and third-degree theft.

Court records show York has been charged with more than 35 crimes since 2008 and served prison time in 2011 related to burglary charges.

The Sheriff's Office said an internal investigation on how the escape happened is ongoing and further information would be released when the investigation concludes.

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

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(4) comments

Pamela Blakely

Maybe they should invest in some tear away sheets

Laurie James

Instead of spending all that money on that nice new jail, maybe they should’ve built it away from the city so every time an inmate escapes the citizens don’t have to be in danger when the jailers don’t do their jobs. When they’re not escaping the jail they’re escaping the work release, this is a big problem so besides the jailers not doing their jobs, neither is the mayor for not doing something about it.

Lori Ray

So they should have built the jail in the county so those of us who live there would be in danger? Following this logic those who do not live in the city are less important than those who do.

JP Bama

Wow ,some nice security there at the Morgan County Jail . Lets hope it doesn't get as shabby as the work release center

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