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Escaped killer captured in Halifax County

Posted September 27, 2012

— A murderer who walked away from a prison farm Sunday morning was recaptured Thursday morning in a garage in Halifax County, authorities said.

James Ladd Jr., 51, was serving three consecutive life sentences for two 1980 murders when he left work at an unfenced prison farm at Tillery Correctional Center in Halifax County.

Dozens of law enforcement officers from various state and local agencies searched day and night for close to 100 hours before correction officers and agents with the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement apprehended him shortly before 11 a.m. about 10 miles from the prison, authorities said.

The officers and agents were following up on a tip along N.C. Highway 125 near Scotland Neck when a driver stopped and alerted them about a man he had just seen running from the woods toward a nearby home, authorities said.

Authorities began searching the area and found Ladd hiding in a garage attached to the home. He was taken into custody without incident.

"It is a big relief to know that we recaptured him," said Oliver Washington, superintendent of Tillery Correctional Center.

The driver's sighting was the second tip about Ladd in the Scotland Neck area early Thursday.

Brent Bass told authorities that he thought Ladd tried to break into his home Wednesday night. The family heard someone trying to get in the back door, and they later found footprints in a backyard sandbox.

"Last night, I didn't really sleep all that well. It didn't really sit good with me knowing someone was trying to get into my house," said Bass, who lives a few miles from where Ladd was caught.

Garage where prison escapee James Ladd found Prison escapee lived in woods, found in garage

Ladd told authorities that he had been sleeping in the woods and eating acorns since his escape, Washington said.

The state Department of Public Safety transported Ladd to maximum-security Central Prison in Raleigh, where he faces an escape charge as well as prison disciplinary charges.

"He won't be coming back to Tillery any time soon," Washington said.

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.

Despite his life sentences, he had a good record behind bars, which allowed him to be shifted to Tillery Correctional Center, a minimum-security facility, DPS spokesman Keith Acree said.

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, Acree said. They must be within five years of the date of their release or parole eligibility.

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.

Many inmates at Tillery Correctional Center work on two unfenced prison farms. DPS officials have said a guard was supposed to check on Ladd periodically, noting that some inmates aren't supervised on the farms.

Washington said prison procedures would be reviewed, but it's unclear whether any changes will be made.


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  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Sep 28, 2012

    DPS officials have said a guard was supposed to check on Ladd periodically

    This guard should be fired. He put the public in danger.

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Sep 28, 2012

    Guards should be doing their jobs, then their would be no absolute reason why a criminal would even escape.

  • mrsmom Sep 28, 2012

    "'He won't be coming back to Tillery any time soon,' Washington said."

    Well, let's hope not! And if you have any more killers up there, let's get them in a more secure place, too!

  • dwallace9392 Sep 28, 2012

    He killed two people. He should have been in maximum security in the first place. Someone should be charged for letting this guy get away. Thank God, he did not kill anyone else, but if he could have got in those people house, who knows?

  • Coolbreeze Sep 28, 2012

    I bet he wishes he was back on that tractor!!

  • DivaD Sep 28, 2012

    He just wanted to see what was going on in the real world..

  • computer trainer Sep 27, 2012

    A friend of mine said that they have prisoners working at the ESC. I am not so sure that I would want to have them around me.

  • JJ20 Sep 27, 2012

    Guess mommy was wrong about him never being caught.

  • zacksmill Sep 27, 2012

    He said he survived by eating acorns. It was probably a squirrel that turned him in.

  • makeitright Sep 27, 2012

    Oliver Washington, superintendent of Tillery Correctional Center.

    THis guys still ahs a job???