Fear mounted while I was a prisoner in the St. Bernard Parish Jail One of the seven people that was arrested with me had gotten scared during police questioning and had given the police my real name. Now they knew everything.
I had spent 8 months in the parish prison in 1982 for distribution of marijuana, diazepam, and cocaine. I was a repeat offender, an habitual criminal, and it was sure to go heavy against me. The police and my fellow inmates were plaguing me with rumors of life in prison. Even if I only got a few years from the charges in Chalmette, I would still have to face charges in West Feliciana Parish. The magistrate court had set my bond at $22,500 in St. Bernard, and I was ready to make bail. I was tired of being locked up. I was tired of jail food. I missed my family, my freedom, my drugs. I pleaded with my mother, but she wouldn’t bail me out.
Thoughts of escape were constantly on my mind. That was my only solution: I had to escape. I found a piece of steel in my cell and used it to saw on the bars.
It was going to be a long process to cut through those bars without a saw, but I seemed to have plenty of time. My efforts were futile. I had to make bail!
A portion of my family’ s estate in W est Feliciana Parish had been left to me. I had always been an excellent con artist, so I called my mother and threatened to sell my portion of the estate if she didn’t bail me out. It worked; I was finally able to con my mother into paying my bail. So in the middle of April 1987, after eating breakfast and making bail in St. Bernard Parish, two sheriff’s deputies from West Feliciana Parish arrived to pick me up. I was released into their custody around noon. They handcuffed me, shackled my legs with leg irons, and drove me back to West Feliciana Parish.
During the ride back, all I could think about was getting out. I was sick and tired of Jail. All I would have to do would be to call my grandmother and get her to pay bail for me in West Feliciana. I was sure that she would; she had always helped me. I’ll go to magistrate court, and they’ll set the bond. Then, I’ll call Grandmother and she’ll bail me out. I should be home before dark.
We arrived at St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish around 2:00 p.m. The first stop was magistrate court. To my dismay the magistrate set my bond at one million dollars, cash no property bonds. They didn’t have any plans of letting me go anywhere.
I arrived at the West Feliciana Parish jail around 3:00 p.m. The deputies removed the leg irons and handcuffs. They took finger prints and mug shots. I called Grandmother, but there was nothing she could do.Iwasattheendofmyrope,doomedtoalifein prison. I made up my mind: I had to escape.
“Officer, can I use the restroom? I want to wash this ink off my hands.”
“Yeah, but make it quick.”
I was wearing a black Harley Davidson tee shirt, blue jeans, and a pair of flip flops, nothing else. I went into the restroom and quickly removed the flip flops. Holding them in one hand, I immediately flung the door open with the other. I flew towards the front door with my heart racing ninety to nothing.
Officer James shouted, “Hey, hey, hey! Where you going?”
I dashed past the deputy who was standing at the front door and darted across the parking lot. The deputies were right on my tail. (I believe the only reason Officer James didn’t catch me right there in that parking lot was because he was wearing cowboy boots. He’s really fast.) There was a chain link fence across the back of the jail yard. I knew the place well; I had resided there before. I hit the fence while running wide open and in one stride was on the other side. The adrenaline was really pumping. I’d never had an experience like this. My heart was pounding. I was a fugitive.
I ran into the woods, still barefooted. Stickers had covered the bottoms of my feet and had gotten between all of my toes. My feet were bleeding in pain, but I continued to run, the adrenaline was still pumping. I ran for about an hour and really covered a lot of ground, but my body was worn out. I would stop and rest for about 15 seconds at the top of each hill and then continue to run.
I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake as I rushed up a large hillside through blackjack vines and briars. The brush was really thick. And then I heard them. The bloodhounds. The Angola Penitentiary search team was on my trail. I was terribly frightened. Unless the dogs lost my trail, I would be caught. I was out in the woods with nowhere to go. I began to run in figure eight patterns to throw the dogs off my trail. My arms, face, and feet were bleeding from running through the briars. The skin was literally being raked off my arms, neck, and face. The dogs continued to bark; they were still a good ways behind me. I kept listening as I ran. And then came the helicopters. They were searching for me from the air. I dove into the brush and briars to keep from being seen; they were directly overhead.
The chasers were closing in, but fortunately the afternoon was ticking by. It would be dark soon. I had to hang on till dark.
I ran to the edge of a field. There was a police car on the other side, so I turned and ran back into the woods. I continued running deeper and deeper into the woods. Then I came upon a gravel road and spotted a game warden. I was afraid that I was surrounded. I turned and ran again., I finally. came to a road near the Mississippi River. I decided to wait there till dark and then cross the road and try to swim across the river.
I laid down near the top of a cliff and waited for dark. There was a creek down below me; I was very thirsty. I wanted some water, but knew that I couldn’t move; I had to be extremely still. I could still hear the dogs and helicopters. I was engulfed with tremendous fear and torment.
As I lay there, I heard the sound of fourwheel drives. I could tell that they were fourwheel drives from the sound of the knobbies on the blacktop. They would go about 50 yards or so and then stop to let a stander (an Angola guard) out. Then they would go another 50 yards or so and let another one out. From the top of the cliff where I was positioned under some briars, I could look across a field and see approximately 15 Angola guards spaced across the field. At that point I was certain that I was surrounded. I knew that the only chance I had was to lay dormant until they gave up the search. This would surely take days.
I decided that I had better improve my position, so I began to move the leaves from around me. I wanted to have an area that I could lay in without making any noise from moving in the leaves. To keep from being heard, I cleared out the area by moving one leaf at a time. It took a while to get down to the dirt, but I managed to make a clearing. There was nothing left to do but wait.
My figure eight patterns must have worked; the dogs had lost my trail. Fire ants began eating the blood off my body. They were continually on my face, neck, arms, and feet. They were between my toes. I couldn’t even swat at them; the guards were so close. At times the guards were within 10 feet. The mosquitoes nearly carried me out of that swamp. I lay in that one spot without water, food or anything for four nights and three days. I was in complete misery!
Nights are pretty cool in Louisiana in April, but I wasn’t that cold. My body was literally numb. I began to hallucinate from dehydration. Many strange thoughts came to mind. Maybe they’re putting glycerin or something in the air to make me hallucinate. I was plenty scared. I felt like death. At night it felt like there were demons poking at me. I was hallucinating that badly from the lack of water. Around day two or three, I can’t remember exactly which, an Angola guard sat down on the cliff top about 20 feet above where I was lying. I watched him as he opened up a Sprite and drank it. My mind was busy trying to figure out how I could get that Sprite out of his hand. The agony grew!
That guard was so close that I’m still amazed that he didn’t see me. There were many times when they almost caught me. Later that same night, I accidentally made some noise and several guards came over to the top of the cliff. They peered down on my position with night sight goggles. They were so close (within 4 feet) that I could even hear them breathing. They must have been wearing some type of mask. The next day I made some noise again and two guards walked over to the cliff top. I had grown up in the woods, so I made some noise like a small animal in the leaves, and the guards just shrugged their shoulders and walked off.
Yes, there were many such instances when they almost had me. Bloodhounds walked all around me, but they never picked up my scent. I leaned up one day and saw a guard with a shotgun standing about 30 feet in front of me. I just eased back down. He never saw me. Several hours later I leaned up again and could see lines of guards in the field. I was right under their noses. I sat them out; I waited them out for four nights and three days. I was fighting for my life and refused to give up. I was a child of the devil, and I was reaping his rewards.
That fourth day I was at the point that it didn’t matter whether they shot me or not, I had to get something to drink. I knew that if they were still there when I stood up that fourth day that they would probably blow me away. BUT GOD, as the Bible says, must have intervened and put it on their hearts and minds to back out. When I stood up I didn’t see any guards; they had pulled out. I eased down the side of that cliff towards the stagnant creek below. I was so weak that I could hardly walk. The adrenaline that had run through my body during those days had literally worn my body out. My muscles were beyond pain. I drank water from a stagnant hole that was full of mosquito larvae. I could feel those larvae in my throat as I drank, but that water was delicious, the best. I needed it so badly.
It appeared that all of the perimeter guards had been pulled out. I was no longer surrounded. I saw one guard late that afternoon near the Creek. He probably would have caught me if he had stayed in the woods a little longer, but he was pulling out before nightfall.
It was hot during the days and cold at night. It was also very dry. I was hoping that it would rain to give me some fresh water, but it didn’t. My body was terribly weak.