Lima escapee details prison break that led to days-long manhunt

James Lee escaped from a Lima prison in May alongside convicted killer Bradley Gillespie.
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 6:27 PM EDT
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HENDERSON, KY (WTVG) - A man who escaped a prison in Lima and led authorities on a days-long manhunt is recounting his escape.

James Lee, who is in custody at the Henderson County Detention Center, discussed the escape and the manhunt with our sister station in Evansville, Indiana. Lee and his accomplice, Bradley Gillespie, escaped the Allen-Oakwood Correctional Facility in Lima, Ohio back in May. Lee was in for burglary and breaking and entering, while Gillespie was in for a double murder in Paulding County.

Gillespie died during the manhunt and his body was found in the Ohio River.

Lee told reporter Steve Mehling he chose to break out due to alleged abuse he faced at the prison in Lima, but now says he wishes he’s never escaped.

Lee was asked if the escape was planned beyond the trash chute they escaped in and Lee says he never thought they’d get that far. Prison officials didn’t realize the pair were missing for about 24 hours after their escape. They went undetected for numerous head counts.

Lee said they stayed in the country for awhile before hitting the highways and making it all the way to Henderson when authorities noticed the stolen car.

“Once we’d seen one car and we’d seen a couple more cars, we knew it was coming to an end,” said Lee. “We wasn’t supposed to go back you know, back to prison. It was either they kill us or we kill them.”

The getaway car crashed during the police chase and the escapees took off on foot. Lee eventually gave up running from authorities after leaping multiple fences.

“I was gonna turn on them, act like I had a gun so they’d shoot me, but I never did,” said Lee. “Things kick back in your mind, you think about your family, everyone would be hurt because of something that I did.”

Authorities arrested Lee but the manhunt for Gillespie continued until his body was recovered from the Ohio River.

Lee said he’s glad he’s alive and glad he was caught and wants to get back home.

“To move on,” Lee said. “Get back to Ohio and start serving my time in drop down levels. Hopefully get into these programs and make something of myself.”

You can watch an extended report on the Lee interview in the video below.

‘I wish I would’ve never went:’ Ohio escapee speaks out for first time since manhunt