Rex Aaron Veasey, left, and Chad Johnson
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Both inmates sentenced in 2021 Gulf County jailbreak

Cellmates Rex Aaron Veasey, 31, and Chad Edward Johnson, 45, attempted to stab a correctional officer before locking him in their cell at the Gulf Correctional Facility shortly after midnight on Sept. 7, 2021.

Then, they made their way to the jail’s kitchen, pried an air conditioning unit from the wall, and escaped.

They were apprehended by law enforcement officers in the days that followed, having split up once they made their escape.

Now, more than a year later,  both of those inmates have been sentenced in the escape attempt.

Veasey, who was located just across the Franklin County line about 11 hours after his escape, was sentenced to an additional 15 years in prison for the escape attempt. He plead no contest to the escape charges.

The sentence was tacked onto an existing 15 year sentence, which he obtained during a prior escape attempt in October, 2020, when the defendant scaled two fences to escape from the detention facility’s recreational yard. He was captured about four hours later by Bay County the sheriff’s deputies acting on tips law enforcement received. 

“On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Devin Collier accepted the defendant’s plea to Principal to Escape and Principal to Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer. The defendant will begin serving this 15-year sentence when he completes the 15-year sentence from his 2020 escape from the same facility,” read a press release from Florida’s Fourteenth Judicial Circuit.

Veasy was initially arrested on charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment and aggravated assault.

“The outpouring of assistance from multiple agencies across the region resulted in the defendant being caught the same day.  This demonstrates that our law enforcement agencies put the public’s safety first,” Gulf County Chief Prosecutor Tracy Smith said. “Our prosecution and resulting prison sentences on those cases show our support for that mission. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

While Veasey was found within 24 hours after his escape, Johnson was not found until September 9, 2021 — more than two days afterwards.

Officers from multiple agencies, tips, drones, helicopters and tracking dogs from law enforcement and the Department of Corrections were deployed in the search for both escaped inmates.

Johnson, who was adjudicated guilty without trial on escape, grand theft auto  and battery on a law enforcement officer charges in October, 2022, also received a 15 year sentence for the escape.

Johnson was being held for the Liberty County Jail on 15 counts of possession of child pornography, grand theft of a motor vehicle, battery on a law enforcement officer and attempted escape prior to his escape with Veasey.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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