A member of a rescue crew helps pull Christopher Pray out of a shallow pond. (Photo provied by Portland Fire & Rescue via Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Escaped Oregon State Hospital patient Christopher Pray is back in police custody after a madcap 36 hours that began with stealing a van while in shackles and ended with firefighters tugging him out of a muddy pond with a rope. 

Pray, 39, faces a litany of felony charges, including attempted aggravated murder, robbery and assault. He previously served time in prison and was admitted to the state hospital Wednesday under an aid-and-assist order, intended to help him address mental health issues so he’s competent to stand trial. 

On Wednesday evening, he was injured in an altercation with another patient and taken to another hospital’s emergency room. Upon returning to the hospital, Pray stole the state-owned van he was transported in — despite being fully restrained with leg shackles, a belly chain, handcuffs and a restraint connecting the three means of restraint together.

He led police on a chase southbound from Salem on Interstate 5 until officers  ended the pursuit due to safety concerns. That was the last the public knew of Pray’s whereabouts until Friday morning. 

Shortly after 8 a.m. on Friday, a tipster reported seeing what appeared to be a dead body in a shallow pond at the intersection of North Force Avenue and North Victory Boulevard in Portland, according to a press release from Oregon State Police. Portland Fire & Rescue crews found Pray alive, but stuck in the mud and buried up to his armpits. 

Rescue crews estimated he was trapped in the mud for about 12 hours. It took about an hour, with a fire ladder extended over the pond and crew members slowly pulling on a rope they attached to the man, to drag him to solid ground.

Pray was taken to Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, where police say he initially gave a false name. A hospital employee recognized him and called the police. He’s now in Portland Police Bureau custody.

Oregon State Police is investigating the circumstances of the escape and plan to release more information Tuesday.

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.