LATTAVILLE - State troopers from the Scioto, Jackson and Lawrence county posts have joined a manhunt in the woods of southern Ohio for a man accused of killing a police officer in Ross County. Leads were running dry on the fourth day of the search, according to Ross County Sheriff, Ron Nichols.
“Right now, we've got very little information coming in to us, any sightings or anything like that,” Nichols said.
Authorities believe they have John W. Parsons, accused of shooting a Chillicothe officer last year, trapped in a 7-square-mile area of hills and woods after he used a makeshift rope of toilet paper and bed sheets to escape Saturday from the rooftop recreation area of the nearby county jail.
But he has not been seen since Sunday, when witnesses chased him into the thick brush of the woods after spotting him riding a stolen bicycle.
More officers from neighboring counties were brought in Tuesday to search, with about 200 officers working along with about a dozen dogs to comb the forest.
Searchers had stopped after dark on Monday, but they blanketed roads surrounding the area with patrol cars overnight and scanned the wooded area near Lattaville with an Ohio State Highway Patrol helicopter.
Authorities continue to use a grid-style search to systematically scour the area about 45 miles south of Columbus, Nichols said.
Parsons, who escaped Saturday, may be in poor physical condition, likely going without food and water in the brutal heat, Nichols said.
Temperatures above 90 degrees on Tuesday that felt above 100 with humidity made the search tough on the search teams.
“We're pulling officers in and out of the field to be replenished,” Nichols said.
If Parsons has no food or water, he must be wearing down, Nichols said.
On Monday, searchers reported finding fresh footprints consistent with the sole pattern of jail-issue shoes and a discarded shirt they believe belonged to the inmate.
Searchers also followed some “hot trails” identified by the dogs that suggested Parsons was darting in and out of the woods, the sheriff said.
Parsons, 35, escaped about 1 p.m. Saturday using the rope he hid behind a block he dug out of his cell wall, Nichols said.
The sheriff's office will request the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association investigate the escape, Nichols said. He welcomed the investigation but added that his primary focus remains finding the Parsons.
Parsons 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.
PDT Staff Writer FRANK LEWIS contributed to this story.