Saratoga Springs

Former escapee Joel O’Keefe arrested again

State alleges parole violations for inappropriate behavior
Joel O'Keefe is pictured in inset.
Joel O'Keefe is pictured in inset.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Joel O’Keefe, the former state prison inmate who gained national attention during a 1994 escape from police custody, was back in custody Wednesday for allegedly violating parole.

O’Keefe, who has been living in rural Washington County since his release from state prison in March, approached women in Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls and elsewhere, handing them cards that indicated he was seeking a sexual relationship, according to a report in The Post-Star.

He was arrested on a state parole warrant at about 5 p.m. Wednesday in Saratoga Springs, according to police. 

“We took him into custody on the parole warrant and transported him to the Washington County Jail for them,” said Saratoga Springs Police Lt. Robert Jillson. He said city police had interactions with O’Keefe that day, but he referred a request for details to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

“Parolee Joel O’Keefe was arrested for violating conditions of his parole, including failing to notify his parole officer of his activities and inappropriate behavior toward several individuals he encountered in public,” the corrections department said in a prepared statement.

O’Keefe, now 58, was released from state prison after serving 23 years of a 29-year sentence for a series of crimes in Saratoga County, including burglary and escape.

Warren County Sheriff’s Lt. Steven Stockdale said the department didn’t receive any calls about O’Keefe’s activities, “however, we became aware of a few social media posts describing inappropriate behavior,” he said. “Investigators were able to track down a few people who had encounters. No crimes were alleged, but his behavior was concerning. We forwarded our reports on the matter to parole officers.”

O’Keefe’s fame stems from a two-week manhunt in September and October of 1994, after he escaped from a state police vehicle on state Route 67 just south of Ballston Spa, while being returned to jail after an arraignment. He was handcuffed at the time. Despite a massive manhunt, he remained free for 13 days, until a sandwich shop clerk in Bennington, Vermont, recognized him and called police.

Under the terms of his release, O’Keefe remains under parole supervision until at least 2023.

At the time of his escape, O’Keefe was facing charges of first-degree burglary, larceny, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment, after he sexually attacked a woman at knife-point in her Round Lake home.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services said O’Keefe will now go through a hearing process to determine what disciplinary action, including possibly a return to state prison, is warranted.

“If O’Keefe is restored to parole, the department has issued special conditions to restrict his movement and mitigate any risk to public safety,” the statement read.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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