Police said inmate Robert Crissman "walked away" from the Armstrong County Jail on Thursday morning and killed 55-year-old Tammy Long shortly after his escape.
Crissman, who was in jail for nonviolent offenses, is now charged with murder; theft of a gun, two trucks and a TV set; and aggravated assault on a police officer, Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi said at a Friday news conference.
Andreassi said Crissman was delivering morning breakfast trays at 6:35 a.m. Thursday when he escaped and walked to a home within sight of the jail.
Andreassi said the home was occupied by Long and her companion, Terry Slagle, who Crissman knew.
"They were familiar to the point where he was allowed in voluntarily," Andreassi said, adding that Slagle has been very cooperative with the investigation.
Once inside the home, authorities said, Crissman beat and strangled Long. He allegedly stole a truck and spent roughly a day on the run, never getting farther than 12 miles from the jail.
A manhunt involving state police intensified when calls began to come in from Boggs Township, northeast of Pittsburgh, around 7:30 a.m. Friday about an abandoned vehicle matching the description of one Crissman was thought to have stolen.
More callers reported seeing a man matching Crissman's description walking around carrying a gas can.
Crissman reportedly knocked at one woman's door and asked for help. When she came to the door, she immediately recognized him, locked the door and called 911.
After allegedly stealing another vehicle, Crissman led officers on a chase that covered several miles and ended when he attempted to ram a police car and lost control of his own vehicle, authorities.
He was scheduled to be arraigned and taken to Butler County Jail on Friday. It was unclear whether he had an attorney.