Fugitive repeatedly arrested in Chicago before captureMay 18, 2017 6:32pm

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Illinois police repeatedly arrested a fugitive wanted for murder before investigators linked him to a 1996 slaying in Alabama, where he escaped from jail nearly two decades ago, authorities said Thursday.

It took years for anyone to realize construction worker Phillip Thomas, 54, of Chicago actually was jail escapee Donnovan Johnson, 44, of Boligee, Alabama, said Chief Deputy Jeremy Rancher of Greene County, Alabama.

Rancher, who helped track down the man, said photos and old fingerprints were used to finally reveal the identity of Johnson, who records show served four stints in prison in Illinois while on the lam from Alabama.

Chicago police said they first arrested the man they believe was Thomas in December 1998, just months after the escape, for having a stolen car. He pleaded guilty and received probation.

In all, police said, he had seven felony arrests and four misdemeanor arrests and used five different names, including one that was very close to his actual name — Donovan Leon Johnson.

No one realized that Thomas actually was Johnson because the real Phillip Thomas never had been arrested or fingerprinted before Johnson obtained his ID, said Rancher.

"It was a matter of connecting the dots," he said.

An attorney appointed to represent Johnson did not return a message seeking comment.

A judge set Johnson's trial to begin June 26, almost 15 years to the day after his last trial date, which was canceled.

Johnson escaped from the Greene County jail in 1998 while awaiting trial in the killing of Ollie Carpenter, 29, and records show he went to prison in 2001 in Illinois. His last prison term began in 2005, records show.

Johnson was arrested last week and returned to Alabama on Tuesday. A tip led to a comparison of photos of Thomas and Johnson and then a fingerprint match, Rancher said.

Johnson is being charged with escape, and a judge approved a request to let prosecutors resume court action against him in the slaying of Carpenter, who was shot to death in 1996 in the rural county located about 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Birmingham.

Another man charged in Carpenter's death pleaded guilty and already has completed a prison sentence, authorities said.


AP writer Don Babwin in Chicago contributed to this report.

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

Ohio girl pleads 'true' to lesser charge in dad's slayingA 15-year-old Ohio girl charged in the fatal shooting of her sleeping father has pleaded "true" to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced her to one year in jail
This undated photo released by the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, shows Claudena Helton, arrested Thursday, May 18, 2017, and accused of shooting two of her children in the head and leaving them outside their home. (Montgomery County Jail via AP)
Police: Mom killed 2 kids to save them from evil in world
Judge Janet Sanders presides as jury selection begins for Commonwealth vs. Michael McCarthy in Suffolk Superior Court, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Boston. McCarthy is charged with the murder of 2-year-old Bella Bond, whose body washed up on a Boston Harbor island.. Sitting in, but not presiding, is Judge Anthony Campo, new to the Superior Court.   (Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool)
Jury selection begins for man accused of killing Baby Doe
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Richard Collins III. Authorities appealed for patience Monday, May 22, 2017, from two college communities reacting in shock, fear and anger after Sean Urbanski, a white University of Maryland student, was arrested in what police called the unprovoked stabbing of a black Bowie State University student. Police and the FBI are investigating the killing of Collins as a possible hate crime, because the suspect, Urbanski, became a member of a racist Facebook group several months ago. (U.S. Army via AP)
Prosecutor: Too early to call school stabbing a hate crime
FILE - this Thursday, May 18, 2017, file photo provided by the Madison County Detention Center shows Dwan Wakefield. Wakefield is one of three Mississippi teenagers charged with capital murder in the shooting death of 6-year-old Kingston Frazier expected to make an initial court appearance Monday, May 22, 2017. Authorities said Frazier was found dead in his mother's car Thursday, hours after the vehicle was stolen from outside a Jackson supermarket with the child inside. (Madison County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Judge denies bail for 3 people in child's shooting death
Ohio city braces again for police shooting trialA white police officer charged with killing an unarmed black motorist goes on trial in Ohio for a second time after a jury failed to reach a verdict six months ago

Related Searches

Related Searches