CLEVELAND (Reuters) – A teenager serving a life sentence in the shooting deaths of three Cleveland-area high school students in 2012 was caught about 100 yards from the Ohio prison fence he had scaled to escape just hours earlier, officials said on Friday.
T.J. Lane, 19, who was sentenced to life without parole, last year in the attack at Chardon High School, escaped on Thursday with two other inmates from the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, northwestern Ohio, warden Kevin Jones said at a news conference outside the facility.
Lane and another inmate were captured near the prison on Thursday, though the third escapee, 45-year-old Clifford Opperud, remained at large, Jones said.
It was not clear why Lane was placed at the facility, which houses mostly lower risk prisoners who require minimum security. The prison houses a residential treatment unit for inmates experiencing a mental health crisis and a unit for developmentally delayed inmates.
“We are going to have to sit down and take a look at it and determine if Allen Oakwood was the place he was supposed to be,” Jones said.
According to the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, an Ohio prison oversight group, eight of the facility’s 1,645 inmates require maximum security. There are also 439 workers, including 284 security staff.
Prison officials and police, backed by a helicopter using infrared detection equipment, searched the area Thursday night and warned residents not to let strangers into their homes or to pick up hitchhikers.
Lane was arrested shortly after the February 2012 school attack and confessed to firing 10 rounds from a .22-caliber pistol at students in the school cafeteria, killing Demetrius Hewlin, 16, Russell King Jr., 17, and Daniel Parmertor, 16.
Three others were wounded, including one who was paralyzed.
At his sentencing last year, Lane wore a T-shirt with “killer” scrawled on it and made a profane statement in court. Hee was sentenced to three life terms for the aggravated murders and 37 years for wounding the other students last year.
The rampage was one of several mass shootings in the United States in 2012, including the massacre of 20 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.
Chardon, a small town near Cleveland, is about 200 miles (320 km) east of the prison.
Schools in Chardon were closed on Friday but would provide counseling services, said superintendent Michael Hanlon.
(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu)