Prison escapee back in Allen County for arraignment

LIMA — James Lee on Friday returned to Allen County for the first time since May of this year, when he and another inmate at the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution made a daring escape.

Lee, 47, and fellow inmate Bradley Gillespie escaped from the Lima prison late in the day on May 22 or early the following morning. Freedom for both men was short-lived as Lee was captured less than 48 hours in Henderson, Kentucky. Gillespie’s body was found four days later in the Ohio River near Henderson.

Lee was extradited from Kentucky last month to answer to an escape charge handed down by a recent session of the Allen County grand jury. He is currently being housed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville but was transported, under heavy security, to Lima on Thursday morning for an arraignment hearing before Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed.

A plea of not guilty was entered on Lee’s behalf by attorney Steve Chamberlain of the Allen County Public Defenders Office. Reed scheduled a pre-trial hearing on the escape charge, a second-degree felony, for Dec. 5.

Any sentence Lee may receive for the escape will be added to the 18 years he has remaining in Ohio on a 2021 conviction in Auglaize County for burglary, safecracking and breaking and entering.

Lee and Gillespie reportedly escaped from the Lima facility by hiding in a trash Dumpster. Six correction officers at the prison were suspended with pay following the prison break, pending the completion of internal and external investigations.