The nearly weeklong search for a murderer who escaped from an Ohio prison ended Sunday when authorities confirmed that a body found floating in a Kentucky river is most likely the killer’s.
“Today I believe we have closure to our five-day manhunt,” Sean McKinney, chief of police in Henderson, Kentucky, said at a news conference.
Earlier Sunday, a boater reported a body in the Ohio River, which shares Kentucky’s northern border with Indiana and Ohio, McKinney said. After it was recovered, preliminary investigation determined it was that of Bradley Gillespie, 50, who was last seen near the banks of the waterway, he said.
An autopsy scheduled for Tuesday will provide the last word on the identity of the remains, he said. Gillespie had a limp, seen on security video from a retailer in Indiana, because he might have been injured during the escape, authorities said earlier.
The convict was last seen inside the Allen-Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio, on Monday, authorities said. The next morning he and fellow inmate James Lee, 47, were determined to be missing after a prisoner count, they said.
Investigators say the two hid in a dumpster as part of their escape. Henderson is about 350 miles southwest of Lima. Authorities said the pair had also been seen at a Home Depot in nearby Evansville, Indiana, and in the small city of Vincennes, Indiana, where they might have tried unsuccessfully to break into a vehicle.
On Wednesday, police said, Gillespie and Lee are believed to have been inside an allegedly stolen vehicle that was chased by Henderson officers in the area until it crashed and the suspects fled. Lee was captured nearby, but Gillespie apparently fled and remained at large.
After the vehicle pursuit, authorities swarmed the Henderson area with dozens of officers, three helicopters and bloodhounds. But on Sunday, McKinney suggested Gillespie may have drowned days ago, his body remaining at the bottom of the river until the weekend.
“The levels or stages of decomposition are consistent with a body that’s been in the water four to five days,” McKinney said.
Gillespie was convicted of two counts of murder and was serving two consecutive 15-to-life sentences following sentencing in 2016, Ohio authorities said. Lee had been convicted of burglary and other theft-related crimes, they said.
Four corrections department employees were placed on paid administrative leave amid internal and Ohio State Highway Patrol investigations into the jailbreak.