Local News

Victim's brother says escaped killer unpredictable

Posted September 25, 2012

— As the search for an escaped murderer stretched into its third day Tuesday, the brother of one of his victims said he fears for people's safety.

James Ladd Jr., 51, was serving three consecutive life sentences for two 1980 murders when he walked away from a prison farm at Tillery Correctional Center in Halifax County on Sunday morning.

Dozens of law enforcement officers from various state and local agencies have searched day and night since then, using tracking dogs and aerial surveillance, but haven't been able to pick up his trail.

Authorities said they have received numerous tips as to Ladd's whereabouts, but none have panned out.

Ladd robbed and killed Johnny Henderson and David Edwards on a Yadkin County farm on Nov. 26, 1980. He was convicted of first- and second-degree murder and armed robbery.

Jack Henderson said his brother was a cattle broker who often hired Ladd, then 19, to work on the farm. He said Ladd shot both men in the back of the neck with a high-powered rifle so he could rob them.

Edwards had a young child at the time, while Johnny Henderson had just gotten married, said Jack Henderson, a former Yadkin County sheriff.

"If he'll do that, he'll do anything," he said. "I think what concerns me more than anything else is he might hurt someone else."

Tillery Correctional Center is a minimum-security facility where many inmates work on two unfenced prison farms. Department of Public Safety officials said a guard was supposed to check on Ladd periodically, noting that some inmates aren't supervised on the farms.

"I do not understand somebody that's convicted of two murders and is on a minimum-security prison. I do not understand that," Jack Henderson said, noting that the jury voted 11-1 in favor of a death sentence for Ladd.

"You've got to pay the price to start with, and he hasn't paid his time yet," he said.

Tillery Correctional Center Victim's brother says escapee likely far away

All North Carolina prison inmates, with the exception of those sentenced to death or life without parole, have the opportunity to work their way into minimum-security custody to prepare for their eventual release, DPS spokesman Keith Acree said. They must be within five years of their release date or parole.

Ladd became eligible for parole last year, after serving 30 years in prison. He was denied parole and is scheduled for another parole review in 2014.

Acree said Ladd also had a good record behind bars, which allowed him to be shifted to Tillery Correctional Center.

Jack Henderson said he suspects that Ladd has long since left the area where law enforcement is searching.

"He's befriended someone in prison, and maybe that person has got out of prison (and) has got a car," he said. "He probably picked him up, and he's probably gone south or north or west. I don't know."

Ladd is described as white, with graying hair and a beard, which authorities said he might have shaved off. He stands 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighs about 140 pounds and has blue eyes. He was last seen wearing green pants and a white T-shirt, but may also have a pair of black pants.

Anyone with information on Ladd's whereabouts is asked to call local law enforcement or the Tillery Correctional Center at 252-826-4165.


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  • halfpint1552 Sep 26, 2012

    How is it that he is serving 3 life sentences and was up for parole in 2011 after only 30 years? Since when is a life sentence equal to 10 years?

  • greg69innc Sep 26, 2012

    The scary thing to me is the almost 160 inmates that are on the escape list that we never heard about. I believe we got some shady characters running around here in NC unbeknownst to the public. The sad part is the DOC website does not inform the public of the hometown of the escapee so we really dont know if there is a possibility of them being in our communities.

  • computer trainer Sep 26, 2012

    So this guy kills TWO people in COLD BLOOD and he has a chance for parole? What about the two people he killed? When do they get their chance?

  • Bartmeister Sep 26, 2012

    Serving 3 consecutive life sentences. Working on a farm, with a tractor, basically unsupervised. Rehab, how's it working for ya left wing libs?

  • Lamborghini Mercy Sep 26, 2012

    someone(s) should be fired for this.

  • foghat001 Sep 26, 2012

    What makes you think they aren't looking that hard, atalost?

  • vsusu2002 Sep 26, 2012

    I worked in the Virginia Dept. of Corrections and NEVER will an inmate with a violent crime (murder, robbery, rape) be assigned to a minimum security prison regardless of how well behaved he or she is. Most of the inmates in a minimum security prison in Virginia were non-violent (drug and driving offenses) and had 5 years or less to serve. North Carolina Dept. of Corrections need to change their criteria.

  • AtALost Sep 26, 2012

    " When are we going to wake up and make the necessary changes to the laws and to those that make the laws that such a thing could happen. "

    Sadly, there are some who think 30 years is enough time. Unless his victims can stop being dead now too, he should remain incarcerated in a max security prison. This is why I'll never opt to leave it up to 'my peers' to decide punishment for a perp. Many ignore "an eye for an eye". I can only guess it's because they or their loved ones break the law / rules and they want perpetual sympathy. Praying they catch him soon but I doubt they're really looking that hard.

  • foghat001 Sep 26, 2012

    I'd like to see a WRAL investigative news special on the issue of letting murderers, etc., being allowed to be under such light security measures. Something needs to change, to stop treating all prisoners the same, and a major TV story embarrassment just might be the ticket to do it.

  • boogerntcsmom Sep 25, 2012

    This is a prime example of how screwed up our judicial system is. How in the world should a person that is serving 3 consecutive life sentences ever be sent to a minimal security prison? This shows total lack of respect for the victims and their families. That we give convicted felons more rights and freedoms that were ever given to the victims is a travesty. When are we going to wake up and make the necessary changes to the laws and to those that make the laws that such a thing could happen. As a society we should be ashamed of ourselves. I hope that people will do the right thing and start speaking out and also vote to put people in office that will protect the innocent and have the courage to take all the luxury rights away from the guilty.