Escaped suspect in sheriff's death captured hiding in woods

AP News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2015 11:09 AM
Escaped suspect in sheriff's death captured hiding in woods

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Charged with murder in the car-chase death of a Georgia sheriff, Jim Edward Lowery used a jail transfer to stage a dramatic escape as he slipped free of his leg shackles, smashed a patrol car window and fled. When deputies recaptured him hours later in nearby woods, the fugitive prisoner tried to hide rather than put up a fight.

It took more than 10 hours and about 100 law enforcement officers to catch Lowery. Deputies surrounded him late Tuesday after he was spotted from a search helicopter in a densely wooded area about 300 yards from where he made his escape outside the Laurens County jail.

"We were able to go in with the direction of the helicopter overhead and walk right up and get him as he lay hidden under some brush," Laurens County sheriff's Maj. Keith Golden said Wednesday.

Lowery, 35, had been jailed for months after being charged with felony murder in the death of Montgomery County Sheriff Ladson O'Connor, who crashed his patrol truck June 16 while helping deputies chase Lowery after he fled a traffic stop.

The prisoner escaped Tuesday morning just as a patrol car transferring him from the lockup in Treutlen County arrived at the jail in neighboring Laurens County, about 100 miles west of Savannah.

Lowery managed to remove his leg shackles and use them to smash a window in the patrol car, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said. He fled on foot into nearby woods, eluding the Treutlen County deputy escorting him.

Though Lowery was wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs when he fled, the cuffs were later found lying in road.

Treutlen County Sheriff Tommy Corbin said he doesn't know how Lowery escaped both his leg and wrist restraints. He said it's possible the prisoner picked the locks.

"People that are experienced in it can do it with bobby pins and pieces of plastic," Corbin said. "There are ways to get out of them."

Corbin said charges of escape, punishable by one to five years imprisonment in Georgia, were being added against Lowery. He said an investigation of the escape would determine if any of his deputies warranted disciplinary action, though the sheriff said they seemed to have followed proper procedure.

"He was shackled, he was cuffed, and he was in a secure vehicle when he was being transferred," Corbin said.

The Georgia Sheriffs' Association has said O'Connor was the first Georgia sheriff killed in the line of duty in more than 20 years.

Authorities say the fatal June chase began when deputies assisting a motorist on the roadside noticed an approaching vehicle turn suddenly, as though the driver hoped to avoid being spotted. Lowery fled when the deputies tried to stop him and fired gunshots at three law officers during the chase, authorities have said.

O'Connor joined the pursuit when it crossed into Montgomery County. Deputies arrested Lowery after using spiked strips to deflate the tires of his vehicle. Also arrested and charged was Lowery's passenger, Nicole Dixie Best.

Court records identify Lowery's attorney as David E. Morgan. A woman who answered the phone at Morgan's law office Wednesday said he had no comment.