Investigations underway into Ohio prison escape

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By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and JOHN SEEWER


LIMA, Ohio (AP) -- Criminal and internal investigations are underway to determine how a convicted killer of three Ohio high school students managed to escape from prison, along with two other inmates, state correction officials say.

Outside experts also will review procedures of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and recommend possible improvements, the agency said.

Authorities say the three inmates, including school shooter T.J. Lane, escaped from prison in Lima in northwestern Ohio on Thursday night by scaling a fence, which immediately sounded an alarm.

All three were back in custody by Friday morning, and officials said they were transferred to a high-security prison in Youngstown on the other side of the state.

The union representing prison guards said authorities were alerted to an escape plan Wednesday and segregated an inmate from the same unit as the escapees. But prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said that inmate had nothing to do with Thursday's escape.

Nearly 200 miles northeast of the prison, Lane's brief taste of freedom sent shockwaves through the city of Chardon, where Lane opened fire on students in the high school cafeteria in February 2012, killing three and wounding two others. Lane pleaded guilty to aggravated murder charges last year and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Some Chardon residents interviewed by The Associated Press on Friday said they were outraged that Lane was not being held in a more secure prison. Others said the escape opened old wounds.

"With all due respect, this is attention we really don't want," said Police Chief Scott Niehus, adding that the community is still healing.

The escape occurred at Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution, a minimum- and medium-security prison about 80 miles south of Toledo. The three scaled a fence to a roof over an entry building at 7:38 p.m., sounding the alarm, officials said.

A prison guard immediately chased and caught inmate Lindsey Bruce; Lane, 19, was caught about 100 yards from the prison by two state troopers at 1:20 a.m. Friday after a police dog located him; the third inmate, Clifford Opperud, was caught at 4:20 a.m. after an infrared camera led officers to his hiding area under a boat at a residence and a police dog found him, authorities said.

Lane had been housed in a "protective control" unit, a higher security setting than the main compound, according to a statement Friday from the legislative prisons oversight committee. The unit is designed to hold inmates who face safety threats because of the notoriety of their crimes, because of the testimony they've given, or because of gang threats.

An April inspection by the committee noted ongoing security concerns within the unit.

On the day of the shootings, Lane, who was 17 at the time, was waiting for a bus to take him to an alternative school for students who don't fare well in traditional settings. He told the court later that he didn't know why he opened fire on the students.

Daniel Parmertor and Demetrius Hewlin, both 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, were killed; one of the students wounded is paralyzed.

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Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus. Associated Press writers Mark Gillispie in Chardon and Kantele Franko, Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Jennifer Smola in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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