"He got to hurting, evidently," Aiken sheriff's Capt. Troy Elwell said. "My understanding is he came back to get some pain medication."
Capt. Elwell said doctors are evaluating Terrence Riley, 40, of Columbia, to determine whether he's well enough to be sent to a jail cell.
Mr. Riley was taken into custody Friday after being wounded in Aiken County in a fatal home invasion in which he is a suspect, police said. He was shot in his leg, lower abdomen and chest and at one point was listed in critical condition at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.
Police said he slipped out of the hospital while on a smoke break sometime Sunday.
He returned to the hospital's emergency room about 24 hours later, when he was recognized about 2 a.m. Tuesday by an Aiken city police officer.
Capt. Elwell said he was thankful to the officer who spotted Mr. Riley.
"He was checked into the hospital; he then left the hospital; and he's gone back to the hospital again; and we have yet to hear from the hospital," the captain said Tuesday. "I don't know where we would be at this particular moment if it were not for an Aiken Public Safety officer spotting him waiting."
Capt. Elwell said his office is now waiting on the hospital to give a medical clearance so Mr. Riley can be incarcerated. At that point, Richmond County deputies would take him to the Richmond County jail, where he could then waive or fight extradition. Once the extradition process is complete, he could be taken to the Aiken County Detention Center.
"It's going to take some amount of time," Capt. Elwell said.
Mr. Riley -- whose room is now under guard -- will be charged with murder, possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime, first-degree burglary and attempted armed robbery, Capt. Elwell said.
He would not be charged with escape because when he left the hospital he had not been served an arrest warrant, the captain said.
Reach Preston Sparks and Stephanie Toone at (706) 724-0851.