Police: Drug dealer released from prison, then carjacks woman in parking lot

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Police: Drug dealer released from prison, then carjacks woman in parking lot

RENATTA SIGNORINI
| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, 8:36 a.m.





A Philadelphia man’s freedom from the Westmoreland County Prison on Tuesday was short-lived.


Moments after Thomas Lee Williams, 36, was released from the Hempfield jail at about 6:15 p.m., police said he attacked a West Leechburg woman in the parking lot, took her sport-utility vehicle and fled with her 1-year-old grandson in the back seat.


Williams crashed 2 miles away in Youngwood about 15 minutes later, ran into a wooded area and was eventually apprehended, according to county Park Police Chief Kirk Nolan.


Williams was back behind bars Wednesday on $250,000 bail.


Investigators will be examining surveillance video from outside the prison Wednesday. It appears the victims and suspect did not know each other, but authorities are continuing to investigate, Nolan said.


“As far as we know, it doesn’t seem there was any relationship,” he said.


Both the boy and his grandmother were taken to hospitals to be checked out. The woman had cuts and abrasions, Nolan said.


Court interest in a 2016 drug case against Williams was closed during a bench warrant hearing Tuesday morning. He served 3 to 12 months in that case, but his parole was revoked March 2017 and he was overdue in paying $1,131 costs and fees, according to online court records.


Williams pleaded guilty in January 2017 in that case to dealing drugs at Knights Inn in South Greensburg.


The judge’s ruling Tuesday allowed Williams to be released from the Hempfield Township jail later in the day.


He encountered the 65-year-old victim in the parking lot and allegedly opened the door of her Kia Sorrento, hitting her numerous times in the face, back and shoulders, police said. He took the vehicle and crashed it in the area of Avenue A in Youngwood.


“He tried to get into another vehicle” but was unsuccessful and fled into a wooded area, Nolan said.


K9 officers from park and Greensburg police flushed him out of the woods. Authorities arrested Williams within about an hour of the alleged assault at the prison with the help of numerous police agencies and Youngwood firefighters, Nolan said.


Williams is charged with kidnapping, robbery of a vehicle and two counts each of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. A Dec. 21 preliminary hearing is set.