Richard Lee McNair has chalked up not one but three escapes from different prisons. He is known as the best escapee in the world. How did he get this opinion?

He was born on December 19, 1958 and got sentenced to double life for shooting a man and wounding with 4 bullets another one during a robbery in North Dakota. Besides being a murderer, Richard was also a serial thief. He is the only person that has escaped from a regular, state and federal prison. Each of these stories is interesting, read on to learn why.

A serial… escapee

His first escape took place in 1988. McNair was arrested as a suspect of a murder. During questioning he asked if he could use a toilet and then he tried to escape for the first time. He was, however, caught by one of the police officers. Moreover, a small hidden gun was found on him. McNair admitted that he would use it to get out of there. Later on the same day, he was kept in a small room – but this time he was handcuffed to a chair. When Richard was left alone, he used a lip balm (stolen from an officer) to moisturize his hands. That made them slippery enough to pull down the handcuffs. When he managed to break free from the chair, he escaped from the building and was chased all over the town.

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As described by the police, the wanted man was running away using rooftops and that was where he was surrounded by the officers. That did not stop him, he tried to jump on a nearby tree and go down on it. Unfortunately, he did not manage to grab a branch and fell down on ground injuring his back. When he finally got arrested and was waiting for sentence concerning the murder charges, he also tried to escape. According to the guards, he somehow managed to rip out two bars from the window, used bedlinen to make rope and tied it to the bed. Before he managed to get out of his cell, he was seized by prison guards. After being sentenced for murder he was transferred to a state prison in Bismarck, North Dakota.

In 1992 he decided to try his luck again. In October he managed to get outside the walls using the air shafts. He was at large for 10 months. The North Dakota prison did not want him back in as he was considered to be a very problematic inmate. So after being caught in 1993, McNair was sent to the high-security federal prison in Pollock, Louisiana.

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Hollywood-style escape

After 13 years in Pollock, Richard got tired with living in Louisiana. The inmate worked there as a person responsible for servicing big carts for mailbags. According to the guards, he did this for quite a long time what allowed him for planning his escape in details. He ran from prison for the third time in 2006 using the mentioned carts. He got into one of them, which was then wrapped in foil and transferred on a pallet to an unprotected storeroom from which McNair escaped. Detectives were wondering how he managed to spend about 3 hours on a really hot day with practically no air and stuck in so tiny space. They were amazed to find out that he was able to breathe thanks to a tiny straw.

Few hours after the escape he was met by a police officer Carl Bodden next to railway tracks in Louisiana. Although the man did not have any documents on him and he matched the description issued by the prison just after the escape, he somehow managed to convince the officer to let him free. He said his name was Robert Jones and he went jogging from his workers’ hotel to workplace as he repaired roofs. During this conversation he even used his real name Richard instead of Robert but Bodden did not notice that and let him go. This meeting was – unfortunately for the officer – recorded by the police car camera.

He later excused himself that McNair was extremely calm and his story about the hotel and work was very believable. Thus, after 10 minutes, Richard was let free and the officer realized that it was the infamous murderer.

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The police warned the public that McNair was an extremely dangerous, highly intelligent and very convincing ex-soldier. The trace was that he had his catch phrases as he used triple words like “yeah, yeah, yeah”, “yep, yep, yep” and “nope, nope, nope”. Moreover, the police said that – although he has spent two decades in prison – he was proficient in computers and the Internet. Nine days after his escape, on April 15, he was added to the list of 15 most wanted men.

He was caught just after 18 months. Now he is in the super-maximum security prison ADX Florence in Colorado. From his cell he has written over 300 letters in which he described in details his escapes, life at large and murder that got him behind the bars. These were turned into a book “The Man Who Mailed Himself Out of Jail”. It is worth mentioning that the official ADX Florence webpage gives a possibility to contact the “Escape Artist”. You just need to know his name and surname to find his reference number and send him a letter.

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Title photo by: Luigi Caterino (CC)