Police killer and escape artist Merle Unger Jr. was listed in fair condition at the Winchester Medical Center following a high-speed car chase that led to his capture by the Virginia state police.
The 41-year-old Unger, who has escaped from prison a total of eight times, was on one-to-one guard in his hospital room last night, a hospital official said.
Unger was being treated for cuts to his face, a fractured nose and a fractured vertebra that he received when the stolen 1982 Lincoln Town Car he was driving flipped over while he was being chased by the Virginia state police at 7:15 yesterday morning. The Town Car crashed into an embankment and overturned when Unger took an exit off Interstate 81 at a speed of nearly 70 mph, police said.
Police found a loaded, .32-caliber revolver hidden under the front seat.
Unger was on the lam for eight days after he escaped from the DeSoto Correctional Institution in Arcadia, Fla., by clipping through a fence with modified wire cutters and fleeing into an orange grove. He was serving a 30-year term for burglary, aggravated assault, grand theft and auto theft.
The escape took place just before Unger was to have been transported to Maryland to start serving a life sentence plus 40 years for shooting Hagerstown police officer Donald Kline in 1975.
Unger's former attorney Blake E. Martin, of Chambersburg, Pa., said last night he believes that Unger will be returned to Florida.
Unger was spotted by the Virginia state police because his car was weaving on the interstate, police said.
Martin said Unger, who has been incarcerated for most of his life, knows how to drive, but that it has been a long time since the
felon has been behind the wheel of a car.
"He's not driven in a number of years, but he's certainly done a lot of driving in his time," Martin said. "I was kind of shocked that he came up here. But then I'm never surprised at anything Merle does. He's unpredictable."
The car that Unger was driving had been reported stolen from a repair garage in Greencastle, Pa., near Hagerstown, police said.