After nearly six hours of freedom, convicted school shooter T.J. Lane, 19, was recaptured in Ohio about 100 yards from the prison he escaped from. Lane and two other prisoners went over a fence to escape Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution last night. They were captured by two State Highway Patrol troopers at about 1:20 this morning, hiding near a church. A second prisoner was caught almost immediately after the escape attempt, and the third was returned to custody about 4:20 a.m. It is not known whether the three planned their escape together.
Lane pleaded guilty to aggravated murder last year after the February 2012 shooting spree at Chardon High School in northeast Ohio that left three students dead and several others injured. Lane, who did not attend that school, was reportedly waiting in the Chardon cafeteria for a bus to his own school, alternative high school Lake Academy in Willoughby. Then 17-year-old brought a knife and his uncle’s .22-caliber pistol to the school on Feb. 27, 2012. The gun was fired 10 times inside the Chardon school cafeteria. Daniel Parmertor and Demetrius Hewlin, both 16, were killed, as was 17-year-old Russell King Jr. Nicholas Walczak was also injured and is now wheelchair-bound, paralyzed from the waist down. Although Lane told authorities that he did not know why he did it, students said that King had been dating Lane’s former girlfriend.
At his sentencing hearing, 18-year-old Lane smiled, cursed and gestured obscenely at the victims families. He wore a white t-shirt with the word “killer” written across it, similar to the one he wore the day of the shooting. Prosecutor James Flaiz said he was not prepared for the teenager’s attitude and actions, which he said confirmed that the incident was a “cold, calculated, premeditated killing.” The convicted school shooter was given three life sentences with no possibility of parole. Prior to Lane’s case going to adult court, a juvenile court judge ruled that he was mentally competent to stand trial in adult court.
Lane and the other two prisoners scaled the main perimeter fence of the minimum and medium-security prison in Lima during recreation time in the yard. When questions about why a convicted killer was not at a more secure facility, warden Kevin Jones replied this is was something they would “have to sit down and look at.”
Families of the victims were outraged by the escape. Three hours away from the prison, Chardon closed its schools on Friday for the “safety and well-being of our students, staff and community.” Police officers were sent to guard the homes of the school shooting victims’ families. Dina Parmertor said she was disgusted with the escape, saying she was “scared and panic-stricken.”
The escape of the convicted school shooter and the other two prisoners has placed the Ohio prisons department under scrutiny for the second time in about a year over handling of notorious prisoners. Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man convicted of holding three women captive in his home for a decade, was found dead in his cell of an apparent suicide last September.
Lane’s lawyer, Ian Friedman, said the 19-year-old is exceptionally smart, and if anyone could escape the prison it would be him. He said he has been asked if Lane is dangerous, and replied that “the facts speak for themselves.” Warden Jones said that he saw Lane after his capture and return to the Ohio prison, and the convicted school shooter said nothing.
By Beth A. Balen