Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Ohio Prisoner Escapes in Dumpster, Drowns River

by Jo Ellen Nott

An escapee from Ohio’s Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima was able to get almost 300 miles away by first hiding in a dumpster then fleeing in a stolen car. His escape ended badly then – his corpse was found floating face down in the Ohio River on May 28, 2023.

Bradley Gillespie, 50, of Defiance, a small town tucked away in miles of cornfields in Northwestern Ohio, had been serving two consecutive 15-year-to-life sentences for the murder of Hannah Fischer, 21, and her decades-older boyfriend, Frank Tracy, Jr.

Gillespie and fellow prisoner James Lee, 47, escaped on May 22, 2023. Officials at the lockup admitted in a press conference the next day that 26 hours had gone by since the two were last seen on prison security cameras before prison staff realized they had absconded. An investigation was immediately launched to understand how their absence was not over seven intervening prisoner headcounts.

Four employees were put on administrative leave as the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) began its investigation:  Maj. Carl Bendross and three guards, Tre’mon Glenn-Crawford, Lain Patterson, and Taylor Robey.  The Ohio State Highway Patrol joined the investigation staff, and officials will not rule out placing more prison staff on administrative leave.

On May 24, 2023, the Henderson Kentucky Police Department and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office became aware of a stolen red 1991 Mercury Capri that “was believed to be occupied” the day before by Gillespie and Lee.

“Law enforcement attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle,” but the car  “immediately fled from officers,” Henderson Police shared on Facebook. Both men eventually abandoned the vehicle and took off on foot.  Police quickly apprehended the driver, James Lee, but Gillespie was able to escape, losing a shoe that police found two blocks away. 

Employing a “large amount of manpower from several law enforcement agencies, police K9s, water vessels, helicopters, and drones,” searchers eventually determined that Gillespie was last seen on the banks of the Ohio River in Henderson, on the border Kentucky shares with Indiana. His body was found by a boater in a state of decomposition that indicated he had been in the water for four to five days. 

Henderson Police Chief Sean McKinney estimated authorities used 1,600 man-hours in the search for Gillespie. There was no report how much rehabilitation or mental health treatment that money might have bought had guards not let the prisoner slip away and die.

Sources:  ABC News, Courier Press, WKBN, People 

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login