This story was sponsored in part by a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant.
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
Jason Laird escaped from Tipton Correctional Facility on June 22, according to the Ozark County Sheriff.
The sister of escaped convict Jason Laird says that he sent his ex-wife threatening and cryptic emails in the days before he slipped away from his work release detail.
Laird, 44, was serving a seven-year sentence at the Tipton Correctional Facility west of Jefferson City for burglary and stealing. He had also previously been arrested for a domestic assault against his ex-wife. His older sister Robin Phillips is worried that her brother is now headed to Gainesville, Missouri, where his ex-wife lives. Phillips fears the former spouse is the “end goal” of the escape.
Four days ago, on Father’s Day, Laird emailed his ex-wife at 11 p.m., “I’ve talked to the kids for maybe ten minutes since you’ve moved back there. Can’t even answer on Father’s Day. It’s on you. All that happens is on you.”
Two days prior, an email from Laird to his ex-wife contained only “IAGTSYT.”
Jason Laird is 5 foot 3 and 160 pounds.
“I'm worried about her safety and anyone else that may encounter him, as he is a dangerous man,” Phillips says in an interview. “He will take and do as he pleases regardless of the repercussions. He has no empathy. He is a sociopath.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Laird was at his work release job at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia when he escaped, possibly stealing a pickup truck. The Missouri Department of Transportation told Sedalia police that someone had broken into a maintenance shed at the fairgrounds on the day of Laird’s escape and stolen a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax 2500 owned by the state, according to an Ozark County Sheriff news release. The truck, white with chrome running boards, had Missouri license plate number 11-0189M.
“PLEASE NOTE that in past dealings between Mr. Laird and the Ozark County Sheriff's Office, Mr. Laird has been known to alter the appearance [of] vehicles he has stolen by spray painting them,” the sheriff’s release added.
John Russo, acting chief deputy sheriff, told KY3 that Laird
, “needs to be considered armed and dangerous.”
Phillips questions why Laird was allowed on work release, given that he had attempted escape from the Ozark County Jail in April 2020. He was being held on $10,000 bond when officers discovered Laird had stashed away razor blades and sharpened bed springs into a crude point in that incident. The Ozark County Times reported
Laird had chiseled away grout from his shower area and created a hole through two cinder blocks from his pod into a different space.
Three months prior to that, in Ozark County, Laird violated the order of protection his ex-wife had taken out against him. Laird then went to her house. The police were called, but Laird ran into the woods and eluded capture for a month.
Phillips says that Laird’s criminal career began when he was fifteen years old and living with her and her husband in Jefferson City. She says that one day she went into Laird’s bedroom and discovered hand drawn “blueprints” of the bowling alley where Laird worked. The night before, the bowling alley had been robbed. Phillips says that Laird also once stole a car from Mike Kehoe Ford, drove it to St. Louis and lit it on fire.
Phillips also tells the RFT
that she remembers in the late 1990s her brother escaped from a halfway house in St. Louis.
“We dropped him off and I went to get him soap and different toiletries that he was allowed to have,” she says. “And it was within a few days he was gone.”
The day after Laird’s most recent escape, Phillips looked out her front window to see a line of police cars; officers were there to search her home. Phillips says the officers were “very professional, very respectful” and told her they were conducting similar searches at the homes of all of Laird’s relatives and others with known connections to him.
Law enforcement arrives at the home of Jason Laird's sister to search for him.
When Phillips spoke to the RFT
on Thursday night, she had just seen coverage of her brother’s escape on the local news. A Missouri Department of Corrections official had stated Laird, “did not escape from a prison; he walked away from a work site while on supervised work release."
While accurate, Phillips took this as MODOC downplaying the severity of the situation.
“OK, he didn’t escape,” she says sarcastically. “That’s why there’s this massive manhunt.”
Ryan Krull is a freelance journalist and assistant teaching professor in the department of communication and media at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.