Female sentenced for role after courtroom escape


Officer was injured in episode caught on courtroom video

By Jacob Clary - jclary@aimmediamidwest.com



A Hillsboro woman was sentenced to three years of community control Monday for aiding a man after he escaped from the Highland County Common Pleas Courtroom in September of last year.

Amber Ward, 29, Hillsboro, was sentenced on one count of complicity to escape and one count of failure to appear.

A bill of particulars said that on Sept. 22, 2020, law enforcement received information that Ward had been in contact with Nickolaus Garrison, who had escaped from the courtroom the same day. It said staff at a Holiday Inn in Clinton County found that on Sept. 24, 2020, at 3 p.m., two women and a man checked into a room that had been paid for with a debit card in Ward’s name. A sergeant reviewed video footage and positively identified Ward and Alicia Ralston, but did not recognize Garrison.

However, the bill of particulars said the sergeant acknowledged the man in the video resembled Garrison in height, facial features, visible tattoos on his right arm and wearing similar shoes to the ones Garrison was wearing when he escaped.

Police continued to review the security camera footage and on Sept. 24, 2020, a green car pulled into the hotel parking lot, Ward exited the vehicle, and later Ward, Ralston and Garrison entered the hotel together. Later, Ward and Ralston were seen leaving the hotel, according to the bill of particulars.

After receiving a search warrant, officers searched in the Holiday Inn and apprehended Garrison.

On Oct. 1, 2020, a detective arrived at Ralston’s residence and a green car matching the vehicle viewed at the Holiday Inn was in the driveway. Ralston was arrested on an outstanding warrant after being found in the residence. Ralston initially said she didn’t know Garrison was on the run from law enforcement, but following questioning she admitted to knowing he was on the run and that she learned that he had escaped from the courtroom after a conversation with Ward and Garrison, according to the bill.

A judgment entry from the Highland County Common Pleas Court for the count of complicity to escape said Ward must comply with a counseling center treatment plan as well as all aftercare recommendations. It said if Ward violates any of the community control sanctions, the court will give her a 12-month concurrent sentence as well as a $10,000 fine. The judgment entry stated if Ward is sentenced to time in prison, a time of supervision from the Adult Parole Authority following her release from prison is required.

According to a bill of particulars, Ward originally had two counts filed against her, one for complicity to escape and the other for obstructing justice. However, according to the judgment entry, she was only sentenced for the count of complicity to escape and failure to appear.

The judgment entry from the court for the count of failure to appear said Ward must comply with the counseling center treatment plan as well as all aftercare recommendations. It also said that if Ward violates any community control sanctions, the court will give her a 12-month concurrent sentence as well as a $5,000 fine.

According to a bill of particulars, Ward was indicted in the Highland County Common Pleas Court on or around Dec. 1, 2020, and then was arraigned and given an O.R. bond on Dec. 23, 2020. Ward was advised by the court of the date she was required to appear. The bill of particulars said that on that date, which was Feb. 24, 2021, she failed to appear as required by the court.

The court’s video of the escape showed Garrison breaking away from officers as they attempted to handcuff him at the back of the courtroom. He dashed for a door leading to a stairway at the front of the courtroom with three officers in pursuit. As Garrison rounded a banister at the top of the steps and headed down them, deputy Ben Reno leapt over the banister in an attempt to grab Reno. He barely missed, hit his head on a wall on the other side of the steps, then slid limply down the steps on his back, coming to rest on a landing where the steps take a turn.

Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said after Garrison was captured on Sept, 25, 2020, that Reno suffered four broken ribs and a concussion.

In June, Garrison, then a 34-year-old Hillsboro resident, pled guilty to one count of escape, a third-degree felony; and one count of assault on a peace officer, a fourth-degree felony, in connection with his escape.

In a separate case, Garrison pled guilty to aggravated possession of methamphetamine and aggravated possession of a fentanyl-related compound, both second-degree felonies, in addition to a forfeiture specification.

Garrison was sentenced to 12 months on each count of escape and assault on a peace officer, to be served consecutively, and two years on each count of aggravated possession of methamphetamine and aggravated possession of a fentanyl-related compound, also to be served consecutively.

Visiting judge Daniel Hogan ordered that the sentencing would be consecutive to a prison term that Garrison was already serving.

In April, Ralston, then a 32-year-old Chillicothe resident, received three-year community control sentence for helping Garrison after he escaped, with the added stipulation that she continue in her efforts to obtain her GED, and successfully complete substance abuse disorder treatment through the Georgia Harris House and all recommended aftercare.

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

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Officer was injured in episode caught on courtroom video

By Jacob Clary

jclary@aimmediamidwest.com