Escaped Garfield Heights prisoner dies in fiery crash on Jennings Freeway

(Source: Garfield Heights Police)
(Source: Garfield Heights Police)

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - Smoke and flames filled the Jennings freeway Friday afternoon, after an escaped prisoner sped away from police and crashed a stolen car into a wall.

According to Garfield Heights police, Donnie Thomas, 34, died in the wreck just hours after he had robbed a Walgreens at Rockside and Turney Roads, got arrested, beat a jailer and broke out of the Garfield Heights jail around 7:49 a.m. Friday.

"He choked my husband. He almost killed him and he pepper sprayed him and he's suffering now from a fractured vertebrae in his lower back," said Louise.

Louise's husband, Jim, is the jailer Thomas attacked Friday morning. Jim is in the his 60s and has worked at the Garfield Heights jail for nearly 40 years. He'd been involved in scuffles with inmates in the past, but never anything this violent.

"He was choking him to death. Thank God it didn't happen that way," said Louise.

Louise said her husband followed all the right steps. "Jim had booked him, took his finger prints, DNA, all the normal routine he goes through. He went to go get the jumpsuit for him to change his clothes, and, as Jim turned around and was bending down, he jumped him from behind," she said.

Louise said, at one point, her husband thought he was going to die.

"He also has several lacerations on his arms and his hands and his ears, he basically almost ripped his ears off," she said.

Thankfully, Jim will fully recover.

As for Thomas, Louise feels better now that he's off the streets. Following the car accident, Thomas was rushed to MetroHealth hospital where he was pronounced dead.

"I wish he would've faced his day in court. It's awfully hard to see that ending, but I believe in justice. Maybe he has justice by God now," she said.

The Garfield Heights Police Department is continuing to investigate the incident.

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