Wanted poster for John Buckley and John Lee Williams
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Investigators say they've made a break in the case to find fugitive John Buckley by arresting the man they believe helped him flee Kentucky.
According to the Fayette County Sheriff's Department, the man arrested for helping Buckley is John Lee Williams who was also Buckley's former cell mate.
The Sheriff's Office tells us that Williams helped Buckley flee from the Fayette County Courthouse just minutes before his guilty verdict was to be read on July 12th. They say surveillance video from different businesses and gas stations helped identify him. "It is in the Georgetown Walgreens where we initially see Mr. Williams on video," explains Sergeant Jay Pittman with the Fayette County Sheriff's Office.
WKYT was able to obtain that surveillance video and in it it shows Williams inside the Walgreens store, the date on the video, 07/12/2012. The same man appears to be walking outside just minutes later on a cell phone. Police used this information to issue an arrest warrant against Buckley's mother, Sandra Merritt. The warrant against her, which was filed yesterday, charged her with falsely reporting an incident.
According to police, Merritt filed a report claiming her rental car was stolen by a stranger but police say that car is the one Buckley used to flee. In her arrest warrant it states Williams was on the phone with Merritt while at the Walgreens on July 12th, and she told him to move the car from the lot.
At the news conference the sheriff says she wants to send a message to Buckley.
"We're asking him and calling upon him to turn himself in. It's critical," said Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt. "He's now had a former cell mate charged. Since he chose to jump his bail on July 12, he's had additional charges placed against him. His mother now has an outstanding warrant against her, so I can't stress to him enough that it would be in his best interest to turn himself in."
Buckley has been on the run since July 12 when we walked out of the Fayette County Courthouse shortly before jurors convicted him of rape. His court-ordered electronic monitoring device was later found in the road in front of Buckley's home. Eight days later police found Buckley's getaway car in the parking lot of a Georgetown Walgreen's.
During his trial for rape, Buckley told the court about his service as an Army Ranger deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. Then as the jury reached a verdict, the judge had an unusual announcement: "It appears that the defendant, Mr. Buckley has voluntarily chosen not to return to court."
On Wednesday, Lexington Police issued a warrant for the arrest of Buckley's mother.
Merritt has a Colorado Springs, Colorado, address. Investigators say her information has been entered into a national database, and Lexington Police are coordinating with authorities in Colorado to serve the warrant.
Since fleeing, Buckley's victim has been in hiding and protective custody.
"I understand that this is her son but it doesn't make it right," said Buckley's victim Jessica Merritt. "If she helped him to get away then she is just as at fault. He is a convicted rapist and he deserves to pay time for what he did. Since I shared my story I've had a handful of his ex-girlfriends contact me thanking me for going to trial. They said they weren't strong enough to go and were proud of me for being their voice. He deserves to be behind bars, not walking the street with the general public. He is a threat to everyone around him."