Escapee is 'clear threat': U.S. marshal shares details of how sex offender escaped Larned State Mental Hospital

Tim Hrenchir
Topeka Capital-Journal
This photo of John F. Colt was taken in June during his escape from Lansing State Mental Hospital.

Convicted sex offender John Freeman Colt carefully planned his getaway last June from Larned State Mental Hospital, secretly acquiring a staff identification badge and buying a motorcycle with help from an acquaintance even as he remained in custody.

The U.S. Marshal's Office shared those details this week in a news release announcing it was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Colt, a former Topekan.

“John Colt presents a clear threat to the community every day he is not in custody,” said Ron Miller, U.S. Marshal for the District of Kansas. “He has been deemed a sexual predator, and the U.S. Marshals consider his escape a major case and are devoting all available resources to his capture.”

Shawnee County District Court records show Colt was sentenced in December 2001 to serve a maximum of five years in prison after he pleaded no contest to aggravated sexual battery and aggravated burglary, both committed in Shawnee County.

"After his criminal sentence was completed, the State of Kansas courts deemed him a Sexually Violent Predator at high risk to commit a future sex offense and too dangerous to be released," the Marshal's Office said in this week's news release. "He was indefinitely civilly committed and sent to the Larned State Hospital’s Sexual Predator Treatment Program in 2007, where he has resided until the escape."

Colt, 42, was kept confined under the state's Sexually Violent Predator Act, a law originally passed in 1994 enabling the state to keep sexually violent offenders confined in a mental institution receiving treatment after they finish a criminal sentence if they're considered likely to engage in repeat acts of sexual violence.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that law's legality in 1997.

The state's Sexual Predator Treatment program had 286 patients as of last year, including 244 in its main facility at Larned State Hospital near Larned, according to a document posted online by the Kansas Legislative Research Department.

The Marshal's Office news release said investigators think Colt planned his escape for several months in advance, obtaining dress clothes and a replica of a staff identification badge.

"The morning of his escape he shaved off his long hair and beard," the release said. "He put blankets under his bed covers making it appear he was still in bed sleeping. He was then able to convince a new staff worker (that he targeted) that he was in fact a new doctor and needed help finding his way out."

Posing as a physician, Colt managed to make his way past five secured doors and ultimately get outside the gates, the release said. 

It said several hours passed before hospital staff noticed realized Colt was missing and alerted the Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office.

In the meantime, Colt got a ride from a farmer into Larned, then rode off on the motorcycle he'd bought with help from an acquaintance, the release said.

"While his whereabouts are currently unknown, he may be traveling or camping in or around state or national parks throughout Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas or Utah," it said.

Colt should be considered dangerous, the release said.

It said he stands 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighs about 200 pounds, has hazel eyes and brown hair and has a tattoo of a heart accompanied by the letters "BH" on his left arm.

The Marshal's Office asked anyone with information about Colt's whereabouts to contact local law enforcement or the marshal's service at at 1-877-WANTED2 (1-877-926-8332).