“I got a chance to see the actual traffic,” John said, regarding the law enforcement vehicles that were out looking for him. “I slipped by them without them seeing me a couple of times.”
John told 9 Investigates it was a split second decision that will likely add years to his prison sentence. He says while he was out of custody, people helped him along the way without having any idea who he was.
John says he was in a bad state of mind following a breakup, and by the time he realized he was far away from the work detail site outside of the secure facility, he was too "embarrassed" to turn around.
He told Eyewitness News he expected to die, instead of being captured.
“I had never thought of it,” John said when asked if he was planning an escape before that day.
John was sentenced to 15 years in 2009 for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Court records show he pistol-whipped an ex-girlfriend in 2008.
The inmate says no one came after him, or noticed he was leaving, despite having at least two corrections officers watching his work detail group.
“If there was more supervision, yeah, I could've been stopped. Somebody could've caught my mode, and noticed my mood was changed,” John said.
Investigators say John stole a truck near the prison and wound up 40 miles away in Orange County, where he hid out for more than a day. John says he even stopped inside a few stores, including a Target, and interacted with people who likely had no idea who he was.
“Our uniforms aren't labeled as Department of Corrections, or anything like that,” John said. “If someone doesn’t have an experience of seeing inmates, they probably wouldn’t recognize the uniform.”
John says that helped him avoid being caught, even as law enforcement drove right past him. The search put fear in neighborhoods across two counties, and likely added to the time he’ll spend behind bars.
John now faces charges for escape, a second-degree felony, and grand theft, a third-degree felony, which can carry a combined up to 20 years in prison.
“I want to apologize to everyone this has affected -- My family, the community -- everything I put them through, the few hours I was out there,” John said.
When John was captured by investigators, he had two screwdrivers in his pocket and a razor. He told Eyewitness News that the screwdrivers were simply tools from the motor pool work detail that he was using prior to walking away from Lake Correctional.