Escaped prisoner caught in Perry

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 30, 2004

A man who had just four months remaining on two misdemeanor convictions escaped from a Tuscaloosa jail Thursday and led at least six law enforcement agencies on a day long back-road chase.

Matthew McClellan, 31, escaped from Tuscaloosa Police on Thursday while he was performing duties as a prison trustee.

“He was washing a car with a number of other trustees, and when he moved the car from one location to another, he apparently escaped,” said Capt. David Hartin, spokesman for the Tuscaloosa Police Department. “In my 28 years of law enforcement, this has never happened.”

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McClellan, whose residence is listed in Akron, was scheduled for release on Aug. 30 for one count of Theft III and one count of leaving the scene of an accident. Both charges were misdemeanors, Hartin said.

During his work as a prison trustee, McClellan stole a 1999 Crown Victoria patrol car and headed south toward Hale County.

“Some of the trustees noticed [McClellan] didn’t come back, and they told us immediately,” Hartin said.

Later on Thursday afternoon, deputies with the Hale County Sheriff’s Department spotted the stolen care and began a pursuit of the suspect.

During the pursuit, McClellan abandoned his car near the Hale County-Perry County line. He traveled along Highway 25, Hale County Roads 51, 29 and 155 before ditching the vehicle near Perry County Road 23 off Highway 14.

Around 6:30 p.m., police brought two K-9 units to the scene off Perry County Road 23 and began a manhunt for McClellan that continued into the late evening hours. As of press time, McClellan had not been captured.

Along with members of the Hale and Perry County Sheriff’s offices, law enforcement officers from Livingston, Tuscaloosa Police and State Troopers assisted in the search for McClellan.

Reports early Thursday evening suggested McClellan might have exchanged fire with law enforcement, but Hartin said that was not true. In fact, Hartin could not confirm that McClellan even had a weapon after the escape.

“With that said, we don’t want citizens to think they can walk up to him,” Hartin said. “There was no weapon in the patrol car, but when you’re dealing with someone like this, you have to be careful.”

Along with K-9 units, the Tuscaloosa Police Helicopter Unit, Air One, helped in the search of McClellan during the early evening hours on Thursday.

“We got reports of inclement weather coming in, so we called off the helicopter,” Hartin said.

Another plane, believed to be that of Tuscaloosa Sheriff Ted Sexton’s, hovered over the search area until 7:45 p.m. Thursday.

“I can’t confirm that was the Sheriff because I haven’t been at the scene,” Hartin said from his Tuscaloosa office Thursday night.

As of press time, Hartin said the Perry County Sheriff’s Department was coordinating the search for McClellan.

“We’re all working together and communicating together, but if anyone has information, Perry County is handling the search and we’re assisting them,” Hartin said.