COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An escaped prison inmate used the phone at a small general store and bought an iced tea and a lighter at a counter where his mug shot was displayed before a customer tackled him, ending a daylong search in a matter of minutes, store workers said Friday.
Store employees told the owner that James David Myers tried to use change from his pocket to cover up his picture before he was tackled and tied up with rope off the shelf Thursday night, less than 24 hours after he was found to be missing from a prison about 8 miles away in Mansfield.
The prison and the State Highway Patrol have refused to discuss how Myers, who worked in the prison's maintenance area, escaped before a head count Wednesday, his 47th birthday.
Employees at the Olivesburg General Store in rural north-central Ohio reported that Myers asked to use the phone Thursday evening, saying he needed to call for help because his vehicle broke down nearby, said store owner Connie Crossen, who arrived later.
Employee Greg Gallaway said he was scooping ice cream when, in disbelief, he and a customer recognized Myers about the same time.
"I'm kind of looking around the room, like, 'Is anyone else seeing what I'm seeing right now?' " said Gallaway, 20.
The customer, Mark Cooper, said he called authorities and then decided to take action, hoping to keep others safe, but couldn't tell whether Myers had a weapon beneath his clothes.
Myers was taken back to the prison, where he'd been held for rape, kidnapping and other crimes.