Morgan County Sheriff's Office says inmate escaped in 30 seconds

The sheriff's office says John "Kaleb" Gillespie escaped using bed sheets from his cell and jumped over a 30-foot wall.

Posted: Oct 28, 2019 8:21 PM
Updated: Oct 28, 2019 10:27 PM

The Morgan County Sheriff's Office says it's working with surrounding agencies to track down an escaped inmate.

They say it took just 30 seconds for John "Kaleb" Gillespie to make his break, Sunday afternoon. If he looks familiar, it's because we covered his case about a year ago, when he eluded law enforcement four times.


The sheriff's office says John "Kaleb" Gillespie escaped using bed sheets from his cell and jumped over a 30-foot wall.

The sheriff's office says Gillespie jumped over a wall, surpassing razor wire. Investigators say he used bed sheets to climb over the wall and jump 30 feet down.

Cameras show him running across the parking lot across from the jail, heading towards the Morgan County Jail. His jumpsuit was later found in the bushes.

"This individual has a violent past from his previous charges and how he was brought in the last time. Although we don't believe he poses an immediate threat to a passerby, he should still be considered dangerous," said Mike Swafford, a spokesperson for the Morgan County Sheriff's Office.

Kaleb Gillespie has been in the Morgan County Jail since his arrest last November after a standoff with Decatur police. He was wanted for ramming a state trooper with his car and trafficking drugs. Before that, he had eluded Moulton police four times.

His criminal record shows he pleaded guilty to second-degree rape in 2009. After his November 2018 arrest, his bond was revoked because police say he failed to register as a sex offender when he moved. In June, he was charged with promoting prison contraband.

"His history is to be violent when it comes time to be captured, so inside the jail, he hasn't really posed any threats to anyone," said Swafford.

That's why Swafford says Gillespie was being held in the jail and not a prison. He tells WAAY 31 this is the first successful escape from inside the Morgan County Jail. Past escapees have tried to make a break while being transferred, but have always been caught.

Kayna Vann showed up at the Morgan County Sheriff's Office to get a pistol permit. Even though police say Gillespie is likely not a danger to the public, she says it's cases just like this that make her want to protect her family.

"It's very scary to know that he's a sex offender and he could be armed and dangerous to everyone and to one of these children out on the streets," said Vann.

Because Gillespie was able to escape from the building, law enforcement officials at the jail are now talking about prevention.

"From this incident, we'll evaluate what took place and see if there's a gap that needs to be corrected, and if so, we'll see what solutions are available for that," said Swafford.

It took 30 seconds for Kaleb Gillespie to escape. Officers noted he was missing during a head count at 2:45 Sunday afternoon.

"Apparently, he was able to determine a weakness and exploited it," said Swafford.

Now, they're considering covering that wall or making it higher. Swafford says they always look for improvements and make regular maintenance upgrades, like painting walls.

"We look at our facility annually and see if there's things that need to be upgraded and added. One, we're looking at additional cameras," he said.

Swafford says they're also working with county commissioners to add body scanners, which will show if incoming inmates have anything on them.

Gillespie is known to have a violent history with law enforcement, so if you see him, contact law enforcement immediately. Right now, officials are following tips and working with surrounding police agencies to find him.

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