Those who believe in rehabilitation argue that a civilised society should give even the most evil of criminals the hope that they might one day be released. But in some parts of the world, particularly the US, where sentences can be insanely high, many scary convicts are forced to spend their whole lives behind bars. A lucky few manage to regain and maintain their liberty by escaping and going on the run, striking plea bargains, or being released by mistake by administrative cockups and bungled extradition requests.
Glen Stewart Godwin
When it comes to giving the US authorities the run-around, escaped convicted murderer and drug trafficker Glen Stewart Godwin is up there with the best of them. A permanent fixture on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, Godwin has evaded capture since he broke out of Mexico’s Puente Grande prison in 1991. During the ‘80s, Godwin was an unremarkable tool salesman and mechanic who was apparently somewhat of ladies’ man. After deciding that selling spanners and fixing cars wasn’t providing the lifestyle he aspired to, Godwin and a buddy decided to kill, rob and blow up a drug dealer friend. He failed to cover his tracks adequately, was caught, and wound up with a 25 years to life stretch in 1982.
In 1987, he made an elaborate escape from Folsom State Prison and fled to Mexico to become a drug trafficker. He wasn’t very good at it, and soon ended up back behind bars over there. While US authorities sought his extradition, Godwin set about murdering one of his fellow prisoners and escaping again. He is now thought to be doing a better job of trading drugs and evading capture somewhere in Latin America.
Rafael Caro Quintero
Former drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero was set free from a Mexican prison in August 2013 after serving 28 years for the murder of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique Camarena. Caro Quintero was pissed after the DEA found one of his marijuana plantations and proceeded to burn 10,000 tons of the drug worth an estimated $160 million. By way of revenge, Caro Quintero ordered the kidnapping, torture and murder of Camarena in 1985. After fleeing to Costa Rica, Caro Quintero was extradited to Mexico City and sentenced to 40 years for Camarena’s killing and other crimes.
Dopey US officials who wanted Caro Quintero extradited to face charges on American soil after his release were caught off guard by Mexican authorities’ decision to free him. Upon learning of his liberty, the Justice Department sent Mexico a provisional arrest warrant for the drug lord as a prelude to an extradition request. Whether or not Mexican security agents can find Caro Quintero remains to be seen. He was tailed as he left prison, but the crack team on his tail lost him soon after his departure.
Multiple Al-Qaida Terror Convicts and Suspects
As prison break campaigns go, an August 2013 bid to free assorted al-Qaida members from prisons across the Middle East must fare as one of the most successful in history. Hundreds of al-Qaida terrorists were freed from facilities in Iraq, Pakistan and Libya after members of the terror group bombed and shot their way into prisons, killing security personnel as they went. In all, media reports suggested the total number of prisoners freed topped 1,500 over a two-week period.
The threat posed by the escaped terrorists prompted Interpol to ask its member countries for help in tracking them down, after fears were raised they could target US and other Western targets. Interpol suggested that the mass jailbreak effort was in fact a recruitment drive to bolster al-Qaida’s membership.
Deroy King Junior
Another of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted criminals, convicted armed robber Deroy King Junior audaciously, or some might say stupidly, held up the same bank in Simpsonville, South Carolina, twice. Having said that, he obviously can’t be too dumb, as he’s managed to evade capture since the second hold-up in 1990. During his latter attempt, King ordered the bank’s staff into a closet at gun point and proceeded to help himself to cash. Unfortunately, while making his exit, King discovered the feds had set up a roadblock to impede his getaway. Ever resourceful, King put the tools at his disposal to good use and blasted his gun at said roadblock. This presumably persuaded police to move their vehicles, as King was able to make a getaway.
What makes King’s long period of time on the run even more impressive is his vintage; he was born in 1945. So at the time of writing, he was a 68 year-old man who had been getting one over on the police for 23 years. Whether or not he poses a threat to the public, King sure looks pretty scary, judging by the pictures of him posted on the FBI’s website.
The release of child sex pervert and cult leader George Feigley caused uproar in the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2008 when he sought to return to the house where prosecutors claimed he orchestrated the rape of minors. Feigley led the Neo American Church which authorities claim was little more than a cover for paedophiles looking for victims. Disturbingly, due to the state of the law when Feigley was convicted of child sex offences, he was not required to wear a tag or register as a sex offender when he was set free.
In a series of events that showed the US prison sentence in less than a flattering light, Feigley managed to escape from jail twice in the ‘70s before being recaptured. In 1983, two of his insanely misguided followers died while attempting to spring him from his cell, according to a report from ABC News. They drowned while crawling around in a sewer pipe close the prison he was being held in. Quite what they were thinking of doing remains unclear, but whatever they had in mind clearly hadn’t been very well thought through.
Before Luka Magnotta’s gruesome dismemberment of student Jun Lin in May 2012, Karla Homolka was perhaps Canada’s most notorious killer. In the early ‘90s, along with her husband Paul Bernardo, Homolka raped and killed three teenage girls, including her own sister, Tammy. The pair drugged their victims and subjected them to humiliating sexual assaults, even filming some. Homolka claimed her husband regularly abused her and forced her commit the heinous acts they carried out together, but video footage of some of their crimes recovered by police showed her to be a more than willing participant.
Homolka effectively got away with murder, serving only 12 years in jail for manslaughter after striking a plea bargain to give evidence against her husband. Many commentators considered her light sentence a disgrace to the Canadian justice system. After her release in 2005, she reportedly fled to the Caribbean where she gave birth to three children, the same number she so cruelly tortured and murdered.