Local News

Escaped killer captured in Halifax County

Posted September 27, 2012 11:28 a.m. EDT
Updated September 27, 2012 6:26 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.