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Business owner helps police apprehend armed fugitive in La Grange

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By Jacquelyn Stoess Hack

An inmate receiving medical treatment at a La Grange hospital escaped a guard's custody and spent 10 hours on the run Thursday before an eagle-eyed business owner's report of suspicious activity at his warehouse led to the inmate's arrest. 

According to police, Christopher Eric Claxton, 32, fled about 9:50 p.m. April 4 from Baptist Hospital Northeast after a struggle with a female corrections officer. Officials say Claxton overpowered the officer and swiped a .38-caliber revolver from her possession.

Claxton, wearing only white boxer shorts and socks, fled to a wooded area behind the hospital. Baptist Northeast  remained on lockdown through the night.

Police apprehended Claxton about 8 a.m. after Wayne Theiss, owner of Theiss Home Furnishings, noticed vandalism to a green Ford Ranger parked outside his warehouse on Button Lane.

Theiss said the passenger's side window had been busted out, and a beige blanket was missing from the vehicle.

Theiss notified police, who located the blanket and apprehended Claxon nearby.

Claxton is now in custody of the Department of Corrections. He has been incarcerated at KSR since 2007, serving a 20-year sentence from Adair, McCreary, Pulaski and Russell counties on two counts of kidnapping, three counts of robbery, four counts of burglary, unlawful imprisonment, impersonating a peace officer, seven counts of theft by unlawful taking, and two counts of possession of firearm by a convicted felon.

He will face additional charges related to his escape.

Crews from KSR searched the area near the hospital in two-man teams and officers from the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Pewee Valley assisted by establishing a tight perimeter.

La Grange residents were advised to keep their doors locked and asked to call 911 to report suspicious activity.

The Louisville Metro Police Air Patrol searched the area by helicopter, but rainy weather temporarily grounded the crew, giving some residents the false impression the search had ended around midnight.

Prison officials and officers from the Oldham County Police Department, La Grange Police Department, Kentucky State Police-Post 5 and the Oldham County Sheriff's Office searched for Claxton throughout the night as Oldham County Dispatchers fielded calls from residents with information about his possible whereabouts.

Oldham County Schools activated its emergency notification system about 6 a.m. to notify parents of a fugitive at large. Schools in the Oldham County district operated in lockdown mode Thursday morning at the start of the school day.

Officials prohibited visitors, teachers kept blinds pulled and all doors remained locked within school buildings until prison officials announced the all clear about 8:30 a.m.

Oldham County Schools issued a second OneCall emergency notification to inform parents that the fugitive had been apprehended and the school day would continue as planned.

Theiss said he walked the perimeter of his warehouse before police arrived and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

The truck is the only property damage reported.

"A small window is a small price to pay to catch the guy before he ended up in someone's house," Theiss said.

But the truck doesn't belong to Theiss. He borrowed the pickup from a longtime Theiss Home Furnishings employee, Clara Wyatt, in order to pickup mulch for landscaping at the store and warehouse.

Theiss left it overnight at the warehouse and a crew planned to finish landscaping Thursday afternoon.

Just a few minutes after police arrived, Theiss watched as officers walked Claxton, barefoot and handcuffed, to their cruisers.

"Just underwear, no socks, " Theiss said. "He must've lost those along the way."