A five-day manhunt for escaped convict Bradley Gillespie came to a close on May 28 when his body was found in the Ohio River by a boater.
It ended an exhausting search for the man convicted of an Ohio double-murder, in which more than 40 officers from local agencies, nearby counties, Ohio and the U.S. Marshals Service took part.
The ordeal began when Gillespie and another inmate, James Lee, escaped from the Allen/Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio, on May 22. Media reports say the pair hid in a Dumpster to evade prison staff and make the escape.
After the escape, the pair stole a car and traveled 350 miles to Henderson before local law enforcement spotted the Mercury Capri at 3:16 a.m. on May 24 and attempted to pull the vehicle over.
A chase ensued, and the car crashed on Camaro Drive, a street off North Elm near the river. Lee was caught quickly after the crash.
Gillespie, 50, got away. The hunt for him started immediately.
In a May 26 news conference, Henderson Police Chief Sean McKinney expressed frustration that Gillespie had not yet been found. He also mentioned that Gillespie may have tried to swim across the river and said that police, fish and wildlife and fire department boats would be on the river searching for any signs of Gillespie.
At a press conference two days later, McKinney made the announcement that a body consistent with the tattoos on Gillespie, along with other identifiers, was found at about 1:30 p.m. floating at mile marker 803 just north of Deaconess Hospital. He said investigators said the body showed a level of decomposition consistent with what would occur after four to five days in water.
An autopsy was scheduled for May 31, he said.
Of the manhunt, he said “intensive is an understatement.”
“This is the most intensive search I’ve ever been a part of,” he said.
Lee, 47, was being held in the Henderson County Detention Center on a $500,000 bond as of press time. He was charged with two counts of first-degree fleeing or evading police and receiving stolen property.
McKinney said he had received permission from city officials to offer $10,000 on top of the $20,000 reward offer the U.S. Marshals Service is offering for a certifiable tip that leads to the arrest of Gillespie. He said it would have to be discussed if the boater who spotted Gillespie’s body would receive any award.
He said the pricetag for all the services that Henderson called in would be high but he had no regrets making those requests to keep residents safe.
“I think the citizens of Henderson deserve that,” he said.
The worry involved as the manhunt went on had a profound effect on the chief.
“I’ve been in law enforcement 26 years and it’s been the longest five days of my career for sure,” he said. “We are glad to have closure to the situation and the events. However, I do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate death of any life at this time.”