Prison neighbors try to resume normal life after escapes


First Posted: 9/12/2014

BATH TOWNSHIP — Some neighbors are friendly and bake pies. Some are inmates in prisons.

Thomas Michael “T.J.” Lane III, 19, and Clifford Earl Opperud, 45, escaped from Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution Thursday night. Residents in the neighborhood, and the entire area, were on edge until the final man was caught at about 5 a.m. Friday.

Bath schools Superintendent Dale Lewellen said different actions taken before, during and after the events on Thursday night allowed the district to hold a normal class schedule Friday. Sessions held at the institution prepared all stakeholders for incidents such as an escape with lessons in communication and lockdown methods.

“The emergency services in the county and the school superintendents work very well together very closely,” Lewellen said. He noted they all have one other’s direct contact numbers in case of an emergency.

“It’s one of those things where you never expect it to happen,” Lewellen said.

A text alert system notified more than 3,000 people that school would be open for normal hours. Lewellen said this system is a huge help.

“The more dramatic it is, the easier it is” to make imperative and time-sensitive decisions about school. Lewellen said if a manhunt were to have continued into the later-morning hours of Friday, students would have stayed home with their families.

Lewellen said he was pleased with the quick capture of the prisoners.

“I think we have an excellent Sheriff’s Department, an excellent State Patrol, an excellent City Police Department and they all worked together to make sure the community stayed as safe as possible,” he said.

At Bluelick General Store, a business just northeast of the prison, employee Joyce McDonald reacted to the escape in a visceral way. She was afraid. She is confident another inmate will escape.

McDonald said the men should have been “taken out” when they were first captured at the time of their initial offenses, showing little sympathy. She believes taxpayer money should not be spent on providing “three meals a day and TV” to inmates.

Allen County “collects everyone’s trash. Let somewhere else take their trash,” she said.

Michael Bosch and his wife live near Springbook Golf Course, an area of concern Thursday night.

“It was kind of nice to know that the police were proactive,” he said, explaining deputies warned him about the manhunt and advised him to lock up.

Bosch said his main concern while the manhunt was ongoing was, “Where are they? That’s the big question, is where are they?”