The daring escapes of Richard Lee McNair
The nation has been riveted by the story of two convicts, Richard Matt and David Sweat, who made a bold escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York on June 5 and have since eluded capture.
The nation has been riveted by the story of two convicts, Richard Matt and David Sweat, who made a bold escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York on June 5 and have since eluded capture . Their story is made all the more intriguing through one escapee's rather lurid relationship with a prison employee and the nature of the escape itself, which resembles the one depicted in the 1994 film "The Shawshank Redemption."
In 2006, the nation was riveted by the equally intriguing case of Richard Lee McNair, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man during a botched 1987 burglary attempt at a grain elevator in Minot, N.D.
McNair escaped from police custody not just once. Or twice. But three times.
His first escape came shortly after he was apprehended by Minot police. Handcuffed to a chair, McNair used a stick of lip balm in his pocket to lubricate his wrist and slip out of the handcuffs. Though he successfully escaped, he was apprehended in short order after jumping off the roof of the jail and hurting his back.
In October 1992, McNair successfully escaped from the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck along with two other inmates by crawling through a ventilation duct. He remained on the run until he was caught the following year.
After that, McNair was housed in the U.S. Penitentiary in Louisiana, and there he mounted his boldest escape. While working for the prison in a manufacturing area repairing old mailbags, McNair constructed a small pod for himself, which he then hid under a pile of the mailbags carried out of the prison by forklift.
McNair was able to narrowly avoid capture for more than a year, all the while watching the United States and Canada grow increasingly fascinated with his story through television, radio and the Internet. He was finally captured in Campbellton, New Brunswick, Canada, on Oct. 24, 2007. He was placed in a supermax prison in Colorado, where he is currently being held.
The following year, crime reporter Byron Christopher began corresponding with McNair, who began to openly write about his escapes and experiences sidestepping authorities. Christopher wrote the book "The Man Who Mailed Himself Out of Jail" based on McNair's letters and interviews with law enforcement in the United States and Canada.
In the forward for the book, Christopher notes that McNair is often called a "folk hero," a label that is helped by McNair's creativity, bravado and charisma.
But that creative, charismatic McNair is lost on Richard Kitzman, according the coverage from The Forum on Oct. 26, 2007.
Kitzman was shot several times in the 1987 incident that kicked off this extraordinary chain of events. And though Kitzman survived, he also heard the gunshots that proved fatal to Jerome Theis, a friend of his for many years.
"I saw more of the revolver than I saw of him," Kitzman said at the time.