Police search for escaped Adams County Prison inmate


GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Police are searching for an inmate who escaped from Adams County Prison.

Police say 37-year-old James Shealer escaped at around 7 a.m. Thursday.

James Shealer

“Right now, his whereabouts are unknown,” said Trooper Megan Frazer. “We are looking into how this happened, why it happened.”

It is unclear how Shealer escaped. The prison was on lockdown all day Thursday.

Shealer is described as 5’8” tall, about 170 pounds and was last seen wearing orange sweatpants and a white T-shirt.

He was serving his sentence for DUI charges. Court documents show he’s also awaiting trial for other DUI charges and drug offenses from earlier this year.

“He has been charged with escape, so if any police officer comes in contact with him, it will be known he has a warrant and he has escaped,” said Frazer.

The prison is a few hundred yards away from a railroad. A K9 officer and a corrections officer were seen boarding a freight train.

Police said that although the charges aren’t considered violent, the public should stay vigilant and contact police immediately if they see Shealer.

“It’s kind of surprising because I’ve been there for my job and even when we come in, they take very good security measures in and out and usually there’s people around so I’m not even sure how it would have happened,” said Joanna Toft, who grew up in Adams County.

Toft is an attorney who used to go inside the prison for work. She said it seemed secure.

“Someone escorts you in. Someone escorts you out,” said Toft. “You don’t take anything in with you.”

State Police are working with multiple law enforcement agencies, including some in Maryland.

“I think that we have really really good police officers and personnel in the area so I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s going to be scary for long,” said Toft.

ABC27 reached out to all of the county commissioners, the prison, the district attorney and Shealer’s attorney for interviews Thursday but did not hear back.

Anyone with information should call state police in Gettysburg at 717-334-8111.

County prisons are not operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. DOC says in 2015, two inmates walked away from the Quehanna Boot Camp in Clearfield County. They were back in custody by the next day.

The last time an inmate escaped the secured perimeter of a state prison was 2007. An inmate at SCI Albion in Erie County escaped by hiding in a garbage can, was found in California and returned to custody.  

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