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Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Manhunt targets Texas escapee

September 14, 2001

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— The FBI issued a nationwide alert Thursday for a convicted killer who remained at large for a second day after escaping from a Texas prison through a hole he widened around a ceiling light fixture.

Harold Laird, 26, was believed to be driving a pickup truck reported stolen shortly after he fled early Wednesday from the state prison near Beaumont, about 80 miles east of Houston. Inside the truck was a .22-caliber rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition.

Authorities reported no sightings Thursday of Laird or the truck.

"The inmate is extremely agile, cunning and persuasive," prison spokesman Larry Todd said. "He is probably desperate at this stage, and knowing that he is armed, we consider him very dangerous."

Laird had been locked up 23 hours a day at the prison because of his history of combative behavior and attempted escape, authorities said. Officers checking on Laird discovered him missing from his cell about 6 a.m. Wednesday. Instead of Laird, they found a dummy he had tried to fashion in the cell.

Laird was sentenced to life in prison at age 17 for killing Douglas Redd, 59, a former homeless man who had befriended Laird and taken him into his home. Redd and a female companion were robbed and shot to death.

Authorities said Laird escaped his cell through a hole he had widened around the fluorescent light fixture in the ceiling of his cell. They do not know how long he was working on the hole, but it appeared he was able to hide his work by putting the light fixture back in place.

Laird made his way to the roof and then to another building, where he jumped to the ground. He fled directly under a tower where a corrections officer was on duty, then vaulted a fence, authorities said.

Gary Johnson, the prison system's executive director, said there are no signs that Laird had assistance from inside the prison.

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