Let’s start with the greatest prison escape movie of all time—The Shawshank Redemption. The crime drama movie, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, was adapted from a novella by Stephen King. Viewers were amazed to watch the protagonist plan for his escape for years. He dug a tunnel with a rock hammer, and it took him 19 years to achieve that. This may be a work of fiction. But, there are real-life criminals who managed to run away from prison under extraordinary circumstances. Some of them are never captured back at all, which makes it even more disturbing. You never know, maybe your new neighbor is a seasoned criminal who escaped the law and made a new identity to fool the authorities. There were several criminals who followed this route. They left their family and friends for good to start a new life in a new place. Some of them were caught decades after they had escaped the law. In this list, we are discussing escaped criminals who have a history of serious crimes. The way they modified their identity to fool others is incredible, for sure. Prison escapes go back as early as the 17th century. Dutch author Hugo Grotius was sentenced to life imprisonment due to a religious dispute with the authorities. Grotius hid himself inside a book chest only to get smuggled outside later on. He left for Paris soon after. Let’s have a look at other daring criminals who have made their name after escaping the law.
15. Michael Morrow
Michael Morrow, in his youth, was involved in fraud and robbery. After having been charged for armed robbery, he was sentenced to five years of imprisonment. While he had only one more year of his sentence left, he escaped from the California Institute for Men in Chino in 1977. He claimed that some people in prison wanted to kill him. So, he escaped to stay alive. Michael Morrow became Carl Frank Wilson after moving to Arkansas. Carl Wilson was arrested in 1984 on suspicion of murder. However, police did not realize that Carl Wilson was Michael Morrow’s new identity. He was released as the murder charges against him were cleared. During the detention, his fingerprints were taken by authorities and those eventually got him arrested again in 2013. When the fingerprints were matched, it was clear that Carl Wilson and Michael Morrow were actually the same person. When he was recaptured, he was already 70.
14. James Robert Jones
James Robert Jones was serving the US Army when he murdered a fellow soldier. He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. In 1977, he escaped from the high-security prison. He later got a driver’s license as Bruce Walter Keith and started living in Florida. He got married and settled down in Deerfield Beach. In Florida, he worked for an air-conditioning company. His wife, who was married to him for decades, had no idea about his criminal history until March of 2014 when he was arrested. One of the most wanted fugitives was traced with the help of the facial recognition database. Later, fingerprints were matched to determine that Bruce Walter Keith and James Robert Jones were the same person. Even James admitted that he had been living under a false identity. After 37 years of living a free life, James was captured and sent back to the same prison that he escaped from.
13. Paula Eileen Carroll
Paula Eileen Carroll was on the run for almost 35 years since she escaped from prison in 1975. She was charged for dealing and stolen property. She was supposed to spend five years in prison, but she fled within a couple of months. She, of course, needed a new identity. She stole the identity of Sharon Brown and started using the social security number of the West Virginia woman. She settled in Melbourne, got married, and had three children. When she was recaptured in April of 2010, her neighbors were shocked. According to them, Carroll was quite involved in community affairs, including Boy Scout fundraising. It was an anonymous tipster who informed police about her, saying that she was not who she claimed to be. Paula was released in 2011 after having spent 11 months in prison. After the release, she got in touch with her original family 35 years after she had lost touch with them.
12. Omid Tahvili
Omid Tahvili was sent to North Fraser Pretrial Centre in British Columbia, Canada in 2005. It was after he kidnapped and s*xually assaulted a man whose brother-in-law allegedly stole his drug money. In 2007, he bribed a security guard and escaped from the maximum-security prison. According to CCTV footage, he wore a janitor’s uniform to fool the authorities during his escape. The security guard helped him by unlocking a number of locked doors. Soon after his escape, Omid was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment. The security guard was sentenced to more than three years of imprisonment for helping Omid Tahvili, who is allegedly involved in a number of organized crimes in Canada. He is also wanted in the US for being involved in a telemarketing fraud worth $3 million. He is one of the most wanted people, according to the FBI. The international fugitive has not been captured yet.
11. Charles Sobhraj
Born to a Vietnamese mother and an Indian father, Charles Sobhraj is one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. In his childhood, he was sent to a boarding school in France after his mother got separated from his father and married a French army officer. It is believed that he has killed somewhere between 12 and 24 Western travelers in the ‘70s and the ‘80s. US traveler Teresa Knowlton, is believed to have been his first victim. Knowlton was found dead in a pool in the Gulf of Thailand. He has since been dubbed the “bikini killer.” Both Knowlton and his other victim, Charmayne Carrou, were wearing bikinis when their dead bodies were found. He is also called “The Serpent” because of his repeated escapes from prison. Even though he has spent more than 35 years in prison, he also escaped from many prisons in India, Afghanistan, and Greece. Interestingly, Charles Sobhraj has never confessed to his crimes.
10. Susan LeFevre
Susan LeFevre was supposed to spend 10 to 20 years in jail in 1975. She was guilty of selling 2.5 grams of heroin. It took her a little more than a year to climb over the fence and run away. Her grandfather helped her get a new identity after the escape. Susan fled to California, as she took a false identity with the name Marie Day. However, she could not manage a false social security number. That’s why she kept changing jobs. Whenever she was asked to provide the number, she left the job. After spending years like this, she got married to Alan Walsh and had three children with him. After 22 years of LeFevre’s marriage, she was eventually captured in April of 2008. She was released on parole in May of 2009. Upon her release, she was interviewed by Oprah.
9. Pascal Payet
Pascal Payet escaped from prison three times. He is truly the one whose escape plans are much more dramatic than those of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. We are obviously not suggesting that these two Hollywood icons tried to escape from prison. We are just referring to their movie, Escape Plan. Payet escaped in 2001 via a helicopter. Two years later, he used a helicopter again to help three of his prison inmates escape from prison. The Frenchman was recaptured in 2007. His partners in crime managed to hijack a helicopter from a Cannes airport. They took the pilot to the Grasse prison. The copter landed on the prison’s roof. Payet, who was 43 at that time, got into the helicopter and escaped. It is believed that he might have been captured in Spain three months after his dramatic escape. However, there are claims that Payet is a free man now.
8. Dawood Ibrahim
Arguably the most notorious fugitive in the Indian subcontinent, Dawood Ibrahim is an underworld don. He has a number of cases pending in the Indian court of law. In 1987, teenager Dawood was involved in a bank robbery. In 2003, the United States declared him as a global terrorist. He is one of the top three most dreaded criminals on Forbes’ list. He is known for being the mastermind of arms smuggling and organized crimes. Dawood Ibrahim’s most severe crime is known to be the Mumbai bomb blasts in 1993 that killed 257 people. He was in Dubai when he planned the series of bomb blasts. He also arranged necessary explosives and smuggled those to India. Indian police have never been able to catch Dawood, primarily because the lion’s share of his actions took place outside of the country. There is strong speculation that Dawood lives in Pakistan even though the Pakistani government has repeatedly rejected it.
7. Vassilis Palaiokostas
There are reasons why Vassilis Palaiokostas got the name “the uncatchable.” Just like Pascal Payet, Palaiokostas is also known for escaping by a helicopter on two occasions. When he escaped for the second time from the same prison, there was strong criticism against the government. Three justice ministry officials were terminated after the second escape. The convicted criminal, who was proven guilty of robbery and kidnapping, dramatically escaped from the high-security Greek prison. Also known as the Greek Robin Hood, Palaiokostas is a convicted bank robber who is believed to have planned the kidnapping of Giorgos Mylonas. Palaiokostas is, however, respected by many in his country as he has donated most of his stolen money to the poor. Palaiokostas was also convicted for the kidnapping of Haitoglou Bros CEO Alexander Haitoglou. For this crime, the Greek fugitive was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment. Crime apparently runs in his family. His brother is serving a sentence for multiple bank robbery cases as well.
6. Robert E. Stackowitz
Robert E. Stackowitz was sentenced to 17 years of imprisonment after having been convicted for robbery. However, he managed to escape from Carroll County Prison Work Camp in 1968, only after two years. It is believed that he stayed in Connecticut and eventually went to Sherman, where he started living in 1990. A US Marshals task force managed to trace the alternate identity the fugitive was using. Stackowitz’s choice of hideout, Sherman, is pretty interesting. The town’s population, as of 2014, was under 40,000. It apparently has only one traffic light, one daycare center, and one grocery store. After recapturing Stackowitz, his case was reopened. He was held on $75,000 bail. In October of last year, the state of Georgia withdrew the case against Stackowitz. At the same time, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy withdrew his extradition warrant for the 71-year-old due to his poor health conditions. He is supposed to be under supervision until 2022.
5. Frank Freshwaters
Frank Freshwaters was on the run for 56 years after having run away from the Ohio State Reformatory in 1959. This is the same prison that was used as the filming location for The Shawshank Redemption. While the movie ends with the protagonist moving to a new place apparently with a new identity, Freshwaters was arrested in May of 2015. It’s no wonder he was named the “Shawshank fugitive.” During his youth, Frank crashed US Army veteran Eugene Flynt, 24, to death. Young Frank was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sent to prison. However, unlike Andy Dufresne in the movie, Frank did not take 19 years to escape. He was out in two years. For most of his life, Freshwaters was known as William Cox, the false identity that allowed him to start a new life during his fugitive days.
4. Ronald Carnes
Ronald Carnes was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment in 1970, when he was just 25 years old. Within three years, Carnes managed to escape from prison. He used multiple fake identities from there on. On some occasions, he was Louie Vance. On other occasions, he was William Henry Cox. Ronald worked as a deliveryman for many years in Washington. His boss considered him one of the best workers in the company. After being on the run for decades, Carnes made a mistake in 2013 by applying for driver’s licenses for both William Henry Cox and Louie Vance. His true identity was revealed when detectives found original documents from his apartment. In April of 2014, he was arrested. While he was initially charged with misuse of social security numbers, those charges were dropped later on. He was sent back to prison so that he could serve the sentence he had escaped from.
3. George Wright
George Wright was just 19 when he was involved in a number of armed robberies in New Jersey. During one of the robberies, George and his partners killed a WWII veteran. In 1963, he was sent to Leesburg State Prison in Leesburg to serve 15 to 30 years. Blame it on the security lapses in the prison as Wright managed to escape from it by stealing the warden’s car. He joined the Black Liberation Army. Wright, dressed as a priest, boarded Delta Air Lines Flight 841 which was traveling to Miami. Wright, as well as his partners, took control of the flight with guns and demanded $1 million from the FBI. The bureau eventually paid them the amount. Wright and his partners flew to Algeria. While his partners were later arrested in France and served in prison, Wright was never arrested. He was eventually traced by the FBI in 2011. After being on the run for 41 years, Wright was arrested in Portugal. However, in the meantime, he got Portuguese nationality. So, US authorities could not send him back to prison.
2. Clarence And John Anglin
Clarence and John Anglin, brothers in real life, were the only people who managed to escape from Alcatraz jail. Before they fled in 1962, it was unbelievable to think that somebody could escape from Alcatraz, located off the shore in San Francisco Bay. Many thought that the two brothers did not survive the escape. However, this photo appeared later on, and claims were made that these two did survive their escape. Their incredible escape plan could put Hollywood to shame. They created an opening in their cell walls and used it to move to a ventilation shaft and then reach the roof. Guards thought they were still in their cell, as they put paper heads under the blanket to fool them. The guard tower could not detect them as they walked all the way to the other side of the island. It is believed that they tied a rope to a shuttle boat and left the island at midnight.
1. Assata Shakur
Assata Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party. The party was originally formed to keep an eye on the police brutality on the African-American community. However, it was eventually involved in a violent far-left political movement in the ‘60s and the ‘70s. Assata, also known as JoAnne Deborah Byron, was accused of a number of crimes between 1971-1973. Other than charges like killing police officers, she was also charged for kidnapping, robbery, and assault. In 1977, she was convicted of murder. Two years later, a number of inmates took a guard hostage and helped her escape. She fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum. In 2013, when the FBI included her on their most wanted terrorist list, she became the first woman to make it to that list. The FBI also announced a reward of $1 million for assisting in Assata’s capture. Assata Shakur, who is deceased rapper Tupac Shakur’s step-aunt, remains free as of now.
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