08/03/2006

Ohio authorities end woods manhunt after six days

The Associated Press

LATTAVILLE, Ohio- Authorities ended their six-day manhunt in rural southern Ohio woods for an escaped inmate accused of killing a police officer, saying Thursday that he has fled the area or hidden himself well.

Instead, local authorities will coordinate with federal and state investigators on a nationwide search for John W. Parsons, Ross County Sheriff Ron Nichols told reporters.

"We're going to switch from an intense manhunt to a broad fugitive investigation," Nichols said.

Searchers feel like the have checked everywhere in they can in the woods, which include thick brush and some scattered houses, he said.

Police had signs that Parsons was in the woods, including footprints consistent with jail-issued shoes.

"He has either embedded himself down really well or he's gotten out from under our umbrella," Nichols said.

Parsons, accused of shooting a Chillicothe officer last year, used a makeshift rope of toilet paper and bed sheets to escape from the rooftop recreation area of the nearby Ross County jail Saturday. Witnesses chased him into the woods Sunday morning after spotting him riding a stolen bicycle.

Nichols had said about 200 officers working with about a dozen dogs combed the forest using a grid-style search to systematically scour the area about 45 miles south of Columbus. A ground search that was suspended Wednesday night resumed Thursday morning. But in a midmorning briefing, the sheriff said teams were being dismissed as they came out of the woods. Authorities planned to replace the foot patrols with expanded vehicle patrols in the area, Nichols said.

Parsons, 35, is accused of robbing a gas station and shooting officer Larry Cox in the neck when Cox chased him on foot in April 2005. Cox was off duty and returning from his parents' house when he came upon the chase.

Parsons is charged with four counts of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and two counts of grand theft. He had been held at the Ross County jail for about a year. 

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