Escapee tunneled through walls like ‘Shawshank Redemption,' cops say

The inmate then tied bed sheets together and rappelled from the third floor, police said

By Mike Stunson
The Charlotte Observer

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — Authorities in Ohio are searching for a prisoner who escaped from a minimum-security jail by crawling through the walls and rappelling down the building

Patrick Thomas, 32, is one of four inmates to have escaped from Hamilton County Sheriff’s custody in the last month, Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey detailed in a Monday, July 4, press conference streamed by WXIX.

McGuffey said that around 5:30 p.m. on July 3, Thomas broke through the dry wall of the Talbert House facility, concealing the hole with a locker and bed he pushed against the wall. He then channeled Andy Dufresne by tunneling through the walls of the building, much like the protagonist from “Shawshank Redemption.”

He entered an office on the third floor of the building and used a chair to break open a window, the sheriff said. By using bed sheets he had tied together, Thomas rappelled off the third floor of the building, which faced a busy Cincinnati street.

Surveillance video shows Thomas fall from 15 to 20 feet onto the sidewalk before walking away.

“I’ve been here 35+-plus years and I have known of escapes like this that have happened at this facility here at the Justice Center and the Talbert House,” McGuffey said. “Those were some years passed and prior sheriffs. Is it unusual? Absolutely it is. But has it happened before? Yes it has.”

Thomas was being held in the Talbert House on a warrant from Kenton County in Kentucky, the sheriff said.

Officers were notified of Thomas’ escape when a passerby said she thought she saw someone escape, according to McGuffey.

McGuffey said changes are coming to the Talbert House, including improved screening on windows and better cameras.

Thomas remains on the loose as of Tuesday, July 5.

The sheriff’s office will also make improvements at the Hamilton County Justice Center, where McGuffey said two inmates walked out in the past month.

On June 8, a woman walked out of the facility while she was in the intake area still in her normal clothes, according to the sheriff. She went unnoticed by mingling with inmates set to be released.

Less than two weeks later, a man escaped the same way, McGuffey said.

The woman, who was initially arrested on misdemeanor forgery and theft charges, and the man, jailed on a drug possession charge, were both recaptured by police.

Also on July 3, a second man walked away from an officer at a Cincinnati hospital, where he was undergoing treatment. He had been arrested on a felony drug possession and was back in custody on Monday and was in the Hamilton County Detention Center, according to the sheriff.

McGuffey called it “unprecedented” to have four escapes over the course of one month.

Anyone with information into Thomas’ whereabouts is asked to contact the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office at 513-825-1500.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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