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Police continue search for escaped Ohio suspect in officer's slaying

The Associated Press

LATTAVILLE, Ohio- An escaped jail inmate charged with killing a police officer continued to elude authorities searching for him Monday in the woods in rural southern Ohio, although they believed hours earlier they had him cornered.

Authorities resumed a foot search and also were using an airplane and dogs to look for John W. Parsons, accused of killing a Chillicothe police officer last year.

Parsons, 35, escaped from a jail recreation area around 1 p.m. Saturday using a rope of toilet paper and bed sheets, Ross County Sheriff Ron Nichols said. The recreation area is surrounded by a wall of about 17 feet, topped with two lines of razor wire.

Parsons hid the makeshift rope behind a block he dug out of his cell wall, the sheriff said. Parsons removed the block using a piece of metal from a table in the cell and replaced the block using toothpaste as mortar.

Nichols said the recreation area was closed following the escape pending an investigation. He said the department will review its procedures and make any necessary changes.

Witnesses chased Parsons on Sunday after spotting him riding a stolen bicycle around 10:30 a.m., but they backed off when he went into thick brush on a hillside, Nichols said.

About 100 officers searched for more than eight hours in 90-degree heat, then pulled back and firmed up a perimeter as night fell.

Thirteen officers were treated for heat exhaustion or dehydration.

"The heat is causing the officers to go down, and the dogs are fading and can't last much more," Nichols said late Sunday afternoon.

The terrain also was hindering the search in an area 45 miles south of Columbus, said George Maier, a commander with the State Highway Patrol.

"It's rough and tough and thick and nasty," he said. "We're pulling ticks and bugs and briars off our guys left and right. It's hard to imagine how miserable they are out there searching."

A State Highway Patrol helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging camera had been ineffective during the day Sunday. Officers had hoped it might detect Parsons' body heat at night, but the helicopter search was abandoned around 1:30 a.m. Monday because of fog and also because the thick brush was making detection difficult, said Captain Dennis McKeever of the Ross County Sheriff's office.

Parsons is charged with four counts of aggravated murder in the death of 42-year-old officer Larry Cox. A 19-year veteran of the Chillicothe force, Cox was shot in the neck April 21, 2005, during a pursuit of a man suspected of robbing a gas station and stealing a car. Cox was off duty and returning from his parents' house when he came upon the chase.

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

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