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Helicopters, Hounds Search For Convicted Killer

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(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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TILLERY, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina authorities used a helicopter and bloodhounds Monday to search for a convicted killer who walked away from a state prison farm nearly two hours before staffers realized he was gone.

James J. Ladd was first noticed missing around noon Sunday, after the tractor he had been operating was found abandoned in a field outside the minimum security Tillery Correctional Center.

Ladd, 51, was serving three life sentences for the 1980 robbery and shooting deaths of two men in Yadkin County.

He had been a reasonably well-behaved inmate, according to records, with no infractions listed for violent behavior while in prison. Still, officials warned anyone who comes in contact with Ladd to steer clear and call 911.

A spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to questions about why a man convicted of double first-degree murder had been assigned to work without supervision.

Ladd became eligible for parole after serving 30 years but was denied release in January 2011, according to records. His next parole review is scheduled for 2014.

Records show Ladd is the seventh North Carolina inmate to escape in 2012. All the others have been recaptured. The last convicted murderer to escape, 47-year-old Martin Pedron, also absconded from Tillery. Pedron is still at large, according to records.

The prison is located in a rural area more than an hour’s drive east of Raleigh. More than 60 Prison Emergency Response Team members and correctional officers have been assigned to the search, along with several State Wildlife officers and Alcohol Law Enforcement agents.

Ladd is white with blue eyes, graying hair and a beard, though authorities said he may have shaved since his escape. He stands 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 140 pounds. He was last seen wearing green pants and a white t-shirt, but may also have a pair of black pants.

The last two inmates who escaped Tillery, in December 2007, were apprehended two days later in South Carolina.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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