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Escapee remains at large

One of two escaped inmates from the Gulf County Detention Facility has been apprehended, the other remains at large.

The search for Chad Edward Johnson, 43, expanded outside of Gulf County on Wednesday after he escaped with his cellmate, Rex Aaron Veasey, Jr., 29, some time before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The two inmates, both last seen wearing white shirts and orange shorts, attacked a correctional officer as he opened the door to the cell where both men were housed.

“During the attack, the officer told the investigator he was punched approximately ten, or twelve, times in the face,” read a release from the Gulf County Sheriff’s Department. “He further stated that Johnson made a statement about killing him and then pulled a homemade knife from his pants and attempted to stab him.”

The correctional officer sustained injuries and was transported to a local hospital.

Johnson and Veasey were able to gain access to the jail facility’s common areas, where it was determined that the two men removed an air conditioning unit from a window and escaped out the hole.

Veasey was captured later Tuesday morning in Franklin County, after being spotted in a wooded area on Box-R Ranch, according to a release from the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office.

He was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Franklin County Jail, where he faces new charges of escape from a correctional facility and one count of attempted murder.

The Port St. Joe Police Department received a report of a stolen vehicle from the 1000 block of Avenue A this morning. The vehicle stolen is a 2006 Ford E-350 15 passenger van with Florida Tag 7039XP, with “Paul Gant BBQ” written on the side.

The van is believed to have been stolen by Johnson and was last seen at 6:20 a.m. Tuesday morning traveling north on Highway 71 near the Calhoun and Gulf County line.

Johnson was being held for the Liberty County Jail on 15 counts of possession of child pornography, grand theft of a motor vehicle, battery on a law enforcement officer and attempted escape.

Veasey was held on charges of sexual battery with a weapon on a victim between ages 12 and 17, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and escape. 

In 2016,  he was arrested in Panama City after a witness said she watched as he struck his 1-year-old son and threw the child around inside the car in which they live. He was charged with child abuse in connection with the incident.  In Oct. 2020, he escaped from the Gulf County Jail, and was soon apprehended. 

Multiple agencies were assisting in the hunt for the escapees, include K-9 units from Gulf, Liberty, Franklin, and Apalachee Correctional Institution; the Bay County Sheriff’s Office; Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office at 850-227-1115.

The Florida Sheriffs’ Association criminal Apprehension Assistance Program is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of Johnson. In addition, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force is offering an additional $1,000.  Panhandle Crime Stoppers continues to honor their $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest Johnson.

Remain anonymous and report your tip online at pcstips.com or call Crime Stoppers at 850-785-TIPS (8477).

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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