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Published: Friday, 7/25/2008

Tip, mail surveillance foil prison breakout by Ohio killer


LUCASVILLE, Ohio - Authorities used mail surveillance and a parole officer's tip to foil a plot to help a killer flee a maximum-security prison where he is serving a life sentence, the warden said yesterday.

FBI and state agents took Derrick Hancock, 53, into custody on a suspected parole violation July 15 at his home in Cleveland. Officials say he plotted to spring Christopher Harris, 33, from the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

No charges have been filed.

Harris was convicted on charges he raped and killed an 84-year-old woman near Fort Loramie, north of Dayton. He and Hancock knew each other while serving time together several years ago at a prison in Toledo, Lucasville warden Phil Kerns said. He said the plan called for Harris to hurt himself enough to require treatment at a hospital, where he would leave with help from Hancock.

Harris and Hancock had discussed the plot in "subtle" messages in letters they exchanged, the warden said. In addition, Hancock's parole officer received secondhand information about the plan and tipped off the prison, Mr. Kerns said.

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