Killer who escaped Supermax is captured in Ohio Harold B. Dean, free for 10 months, is arrested by FBI

October 02, 1992|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Convicted killer Harold Benjamin Dean, the only person eve to escape from Maryland's Supermax prison, was captured by the FBI yesterday afternoon in Ohio after 10 months on the run.

Dean, 40, had been working for several months as an attendant at a Sunoco service station in the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg, living under the assumed name of Edward R. Ratliff, federal agents said.

He had been arrested under the Ratliff name May 1 in Washington, Pa., on a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen goods but was released from jail before his fingerprints were matched in FBI records, authorities said.

Dean, who managed to obtain driver's licenses under the Ratliff name in West Virginia and Ohio, gave the Pennsylvania State Police a Reynoldsburg address -- but not the right one, said Baltimore FBI Special Agent Andy Manning.

"The easiest way to get caught is to get arrested for something," Agent Manning said. "We're very surprised that five months later he's still in Reynoldsburg. With this guy's propensity to stay on the loose and knowing what he was facing, I'd like to know why he was still there."

But Dean had no answer for that yesterday. Federal authorities in Ohio said Dean was not talking after his arrest -- and had not admitted his identity.

He was being held, pending extradition to Maryland, at the Franklin County Jail in Columbus after a hearing before a United States magistrate.

Maryland's most-wanted fugitive, Dean wriggled out of a narrow-slatted cell window at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore Nov. 30 -- the first and only inmate to flee what had been considered an escape-proof prison.

Dean was serving a life term plus 105 years for robbing a Montgomery Ward store, critically wounding an armored guard and killing a tow truck driver who chased after him and an accomplice following the daring 1981 holdup.

He was one of the first inmates to be moved to Supermax, which houses 280 of Maryland's most dangerous convicts, when the $21 million prison opened in January 1989. The prison on East Madison Street is only a block from the Maryland Penitentiary, from which Dean and another inmate escaped in September 1985, using a rope of knotted sheets.

Dean's most recent escape was featured in May on the Fox television network's "America's Most Wanted" program.

In June, authorities arrested Dean's common-law wife, 37-year-old Jane F. Hoover, and her sister, Peggie L. Coleman, 32, both in Baltimore, and announced indictments of a niece and two nephews in Western Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, alleging they were part of an "elaborate network" that aided the murderer.

In Columbus, supervisory Special Agent Dave Hanna said the FBI received a tip yesterday from outside Ohio that Dean was in fact living under the Ratliff name in Reynoldsburg and working at the Sunoco station on East Main Street.

Eight agents took up surveillance nearby to await "Ratliff's" scheduled arrival for work at 3 p.m., Agent Hanna said. The fugitive drove up in a car five minutes late and was arrested without incident -- much to the astonishment of his fellow gas station employees.

Agent Hanna said two handcuff keys were found in Dean's pockets.

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