How One Man Escaped Prison By Mailing Himself Out

When New Brunswick, Canada Mounties captured escaped killer Richard Lee McNair in October 2007, he told them they would be on the news that night and that they had "captured a big fish," as reported by CBC News. One of the officers, Stephane Gagnon, had been on the job for just six weeks, while McNair was an accomplished escape artist who had managed to elude the authorities three times over the course of his criminal career. Each escape utilized increasingly creative methods, and the third time was particularly ingenious — McNair actually mailed himself out of the United States Pollock Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana.

According to The Infographics Show, McNair was working as a sergeant at the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota in 1987 when he decided to break into and rob a grain storage facility. The robbery went wrong, and McNair shot two men, killing one and injuring the other. When he was brought in for questioning, he was able to escape from his handcuffs with the help of some lip balm he had stashed in his pocket. McNair somehow got out of both the holding room and the police station and led authorities on a chase that ended with him jumping out of a third-floor window into a tree, from which he fell. He was then captured, arrested, and sent to Minot's Ward County Jail where guards foiled another escape attempt after discovering that McNair had been chiseling away cinderblocks in his cell. 

Escape via shrinkwrap

Richard McNair was sentenced to 30 years for the robbery and given two life sentences for murder and attempted murder. In 1992, he and two other prisoners escaped from the North Dakota State Penitentiary by climbing through a ventilation duct. The other two men were apprehended within hours, but per The Infographics Show, McNair dyed his hair and roamed around the United States for 10 months using stolen vehicles for transportation. He was eventually apprehended in Grand Island, Nebraska, and transferred to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park — a Level 5 maximum-security prison that had never had an escapee. McNair later participated in a sit-down inmate protest that got him transferred to Denver, Colorado's Florence High Penitentiary. 

Eventually, using his apparent charm, McNair convinced authorities to transfer him to a high-security prison — the United States Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana — where he got a job fixing torn mailbags. On April 5, 2006, he hid inside a pallet of shrink-wrapped mail bags after poking a small hole in the plastic and inserting a small straw that he could breathe through. The pallet was shipped to a storage facility where McNair waited until the workers went to lunch. When the coast was clear, McNair broke out of the plastic wrap and took off running. Not long after, he was actually stopped by a police officer as he ran by a squad car. When asked for his identification, McNair introduced himself as Robert Jones, said he had none, and claimed he was staying at a local hotel and out for a jog.

McNair taunted law enforcement

As reported by The Infographics Show, the police officer who encountered Richard McNair radioed the station to ask for more information on the escapee's appearance. And when he received word that McNair looked pretty much exactly like "Robert Jones," he informed "Jones" that he matched the description of the escapee. The actual escapee reportedly replied, "Well that sucks." Amazingly, he accidentally re-introduced himself as "Jimmy Jones," but the officer still apologized for bothering him during his run and let him go, reportedly saying, "Be careful, buddy."

Per NBC News, federal marshals placed McNair on a list of the United States' 15 most wanted criminals and offered $25,000 for his capture. While on the loose, he brazenly used the name of a warden from the North Dakota prison he'd first escaped on an application for a cell phone. The warden, Tim Schuetzle (above), told NBC News that during his escape from the North Dakota penitentiary, McNair sent him a Christmas card and notes to other prison officials. Schuetzle said of McNair: "I think he's a psychopath who likes to think he's smarter than police and corrections people — maybe that's why he used my name." 

When McNair was finally captured on October 24, 2007, he was living in a stolen van. According to CBC News, he was reportedly "personable and friendly with the police officers" after his capture. Per Inspector Ronald Wells, "He thanked me for having such professional guys."