Grocer's killer escapes from work-release Wade is now 65, in failing health

May 14, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A 65-year-old convicted murderer with failing health was being sought as a fugitive yesterday after walking away from his work-release job at a Jessup warehouse, state correctional officials said.

L. V. "Lonny" Wade, serving life plus 20 years for the 1963 murder and robbery of a Baltimore grocer and an additional 10 years for a prior escape, was last seen at the warehouse about 3 p.m. Wednesday.

"He does not have great health. . . . He's clearly a senior citizen," said Thomas R. Corcoran, warden of the state's prerelease system. "His crime was horrendous, but he's shown no signs in work-release of being any problem whatsoever."

Wade, a gray-haired man who often wears a fishing cap, has diabetes, walks with a slouch and has few remaining teeth, according to police and correctional officials.

But Mr. Corcoran added, "I'd still consider anybody away from the institution illegally to be potentially dangerous."

Wade is black, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs 190 pounds and is clean-shaven.

He was convicted in the Aug. 11, 1963, killing of John F. Thomas Sr., a North Baltimore grocer who was bound with rope and gagged with his own apron, then repeatedly stabbed with a surplus Army bayonet. Wade was 35 at the time.

The FBI arrested Wade two months later in Chicago. Wade confessed, saying he committed the robbery because he was in desperate need of money for his wife and 18-month-old child and killed the grocer in panic when a customer entered the store.

In 1972, Wade escaped from the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup; he was recaptured six years later and served 11 years before going to the Jessup Pre-Release Unit in 1989. He began working at the supply warehouse in July 1990, earning $2 a day, but eventually he was hired as a regular employee, Mr. Corcoran said.

Wade is one of about 120 inmates serving life sentences who are in the prerelease system. Roughly half of those lifers are on work-release, Mr. Corcoran said. Walkoffs are not uncommon in prerelease and work-release. The state averages between 90 and 110 escapes from those programs each year.

"Many of them return the next day, saying, 'Hey, I screwed up, I'm back.' Veney came back a few days later. It's typical," Mr. Corcoran said.

He was referring to Sam Veney, a convicted cop killer who failed to return April 18 from a visit to his son's home. Veney, imprisoned for nearly 29 years, had been given a two-day pass when he escaped. He turned himself in in New York a week later.

Wade's victim, Mr. Thomas, 52, ran a small grocery store in the 2800 block of Remington Ave. On Aug. 11, 1963, Wade -- who occasionally bought food at the store -- entered and announced a robbery.

After tying up Mr. Thomas in the rear of the store, Wade grabbed about $80 in cash, a check-writing machine and 16 blank money orders.

He told police he stabbed the grocer in the face and neck because a customer had walked into the store during the robbery and he feared Mr. Thomas might cry out for help.

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