NEW YORK (AP) — More than 130 inmates who broke, sneaked, climbed and crawled out of secure state prisons nationwide are on the books as being on the loose, according to a 50-state survey by The Associated Press. A look at a few cases:
FUGITIVE IN A FURNITURE CRATE
The first time Florida inmate Glen Stark Chambers escaped, he and two other inmates used bedsheets to shimmy down the side of a Sarasota jail. He was being held there briefly after being convicted in his girlfriend’s 1975 beating death.
All three escapees were soon caught. Chambers was found hiding in a nearby mine and sent back behind bars to continue facing execution.
A court later lowered Chambers’ sentence to life in prison, but he wasn’t sticking around.
While making office furniture at a state prison in February 1990, Chambers got other inmates to box him inside a crate and load it onto a truck, authorities said. After the truck left the prison, Chambers hopped out before the driver realized anyone was inside. Officials later found his clothes in the vehicle.
Authorities say Chambers, who’s 64 if still alive, has been spotted in Florida and Alabama since his escape.
VANISHED THROUGH VENTILATION DUCTS
Jose Fernando Bustos-Diaz was serving 35 years for killing his boss when he and another inmate slipped into ventilation ducts in the wall of a Texas prison furniture factory in April 2010.
They crawled through the ducts, then cut through a razor-wire-topped fence about 25 yards away, before authorities realized the two were missing from their jobs at the furniture factory.
It wasn’t clear what they used to cut the fence — the furniture factory’s tools all were accounted for — and officials concluded they had gotten a ride from someone after clearing the fence.
Bustos-Diaz had been 16 when he slashed a Houston-area horse stable owner’s throat in 2005. Bustos-Diaz, who worked for the victim, was prosecuted as an adult and pleaded guilty to murder.
Authorities believe Bustos-Diaz, now 26 if still alive, is in Mexico. The inmate who escaped with him was captured in the border town of McAllen, Texas, in August 2010.
CHRISTMAS EVE BREAKOUT
Priscilla Frey had been in prison for under six months when she and two other inmates broke out of a Kansas prison on Christmas Eve 1974. Their plan wasn’t complex: They climbed an 8-foot fence and ran.
Frey’s path to prison began with an arrest on charges of forging a check at a shoe store in Hutchinson, Kansas. She skipped bail, got into trouble with the law in Maryland, was extradited back to Kansas and was sentenced to serve up to 10 years for the forgery and up to five years for failing to appear in court.
The other two escapees were later apprehended, but Frey was never found. She’s now 65 if still alive.
TAKING TRUCKS: STEALING ONE, AND STOWING AWAY
Former furniture restorer Philip Sadowski was serving a 40-year sentence when he broke out of a Montana prison in July 1996 by stealing a pickup truck from a prison logging crew. He was 60 at the time.
He’d been convicted of deliberate homicide for shooting a man after a night of drinking with people visiting Sadowski’s woodworking shop at his home near Bozeman in 1989.
The truck was found six months later, its license plates switched with another vehicle’s. But Sadowski’s whereabouts are unknown.
Larry Woods also took a truck — hiding in a garbage hauler — to escape from an Indiana prison in July 2001, authorities believe.
Woods, then 28, was serving a 60-year sentence after being convicted of murdering an Indianapolis restaurant manager. He’d been fairly free to move about the prison because he worked as an inmate groundskeeper.
Authorities have suggested Woods might have been crushed to death by the garbage truck’s compactor. They searched a local landfill for a week after his escape, but no body was ever found.
INFAMOUS NEBRASKA BREAKOUT
William Leslie Arnold was one of Nebraska’s most notorious prisoners. As a 16-year-old in 1958, he’d led police to his parents’ graves in their Omaha backyard and said he’d shot them dead because of a quarrel over use of the family car.
Nine years later, he and another inmate broke out by cutting through window bars in a prison music room and scaling a 12-foot, barbed-wire-topped fence.
His fellow escapee was captured in Los Angeles in 1968 and told investigators he and Arnold had gone together to Chicago and split up there.
Arnold, who went by Les, has never been found.
But a piece of the puzzle emerged as recently as 2006, when a retired minister told the Lincoln Journal Star that on the night of the July 1967 breakout, he picked up the two escapees at a bowling alley, drove them to a bus station and bought them tickets to Chicago. The minister had known Arnold since childhood and said when the escaped convict called for help, he didn’t think about the fact that providing aid would break the law: “I was thinking about a friend in need.”
Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in New York; Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Nebraska; Matt Volz in Helena, Montana, and others around the United States contributed to this report.
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