Yesterday, we told you about Frank Freshwaters, a man who did time in the very same prison that The Shawshank Redemption was set in before escaping. He stayed on the run for 56 years, but Freshwaters is just one in a long line of criminals who have evaded justice for years before finally getting caught.
You know a criminal’s life is extra notorious when they base not one, but two movies on it. Such is the tale of James “Whitey” Bulger, Jr., former big shot in Boston organized crime, as well as an FBI informant. His relationship with the feds, starting in 1975, kept them away from his criminal activities — activities which including murder, extortion, and drug dealing. By 1995, however, other law enforcement agencies, such as the DEA and the Massachusetts State Police, had begun to build a case on his illegal activities.
Bulger had been prepared for this, however, and had not only built a false identity (aka Thomas Baster) to fall back on, but had left safe deposit boxes all over North America and Europe as a series of rainy day funds. Because of this, he was able to say on the run for 16 years. However, on June 22, 2011, he was arrested in Santa Monica, Calif. His arrest primarily came as a result of the Bulger Fugitive Task Force, and you know you’re a really wanted man when the Feds form a task force with your name on it.
In 2006, Martin Scorsese directed The Departed. While technically a remake of the Hong Kong drama Infernal Affairs, much of it was also based on Bulger’s real life criminal activities. Interestingly enough, Bulger had reportedly been spotted at a screening of the movie in San Diego. Black Mass, a film about Bulger’s life specifically, will release later this year with Johnny Depp in the role of Bulger.
Bulger is currently serving two life terms in prison.
The young man eventually nicknamed the “barefoot bandit” began his criminal “career” at age 12 and eventually grew to legendary proportions. By the age of 13, Colton Harris-Moore had four burglary charges on his juvenile record. Never sentenced for more than a month to that point, he was sentenced to a three-year stint in a detention center after police found a neighbor’s video camera in his home.
That was in 2003 and that’s when things took off.
Since then, he’s been suspected in more than 100 robberies, including theft of cars, boats, and light aircraft. Initially stealing only what he needed to survive while living in the wild, his thefts began to increase in value. So did his confidence in his ability to evade capture by the authorities. At one crime scene, he purposely left behind 39 chalk footprints (along with a taunting note of “c’ya!”) — which is what prompted the nickname. He would also often leave clues, including photographs of himself taken with stolen cameras.
Eventually, he was caught in the Bahamas after the police shot out the engine of the stolen speedboat he was escaping in. He had originally flown there in a stolen plane from Bloomington, Ind. He’s currently serving a six-year sentence.
Eric Rudolph is widely known as the man responsible for one of the most infamous bombings in U.S. history. In 1996, he planted the bomb that went off in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics. He was also implicated, and eventually confessed to, a number of abortion clinic bombings, including one in Birmingham, Ala. that killed a police officer. All in all, two people were killed, and 111 were injured in his attacks.
In the five years that he was on the run, following being named a suspect in the Atlanta bombing, Rudolph hid in the wild in the Appalachian Mountains and evaded capture from both law enforcement and citizen groups; his past as a white supremacist and religious zealot turning him into a sort of folk hero among hate groups online.
Despite all the manhunts organized to search for him, Rudolph was eventually arrested in 2003 by a lone police officer during a routine patrol in Murphy, N.C. He eventually pleaded guilty to all charges to avoid the death penalty and is now serving four consecutive life sentences.
Joseph Lewis Miller
In 1981, Thomas Waller was shot outside of a hotel in Harrisburg, Penn. The man behind the trigger was Joseph Lewis Miller, who had already served 11 years in prison for a 1959 killing before having his sentence commuted. That man would seemingly vanish without a trace, escaping justice.
Meanwhile, a man named Roy Eubanks spent 33 years in the small Texas town of Mineola. He was a community leader, a church elder, and even a town official. He was, for all intents and purposes, a model citizen, loved by nearly everyone who came in contact with him. Sure, he never talked about his life before he came to town but no one really pried because he was… well… so nice.
It wasn’t until U.S. Marshalls came into town last year looking for him that everyone discovered that Roy Eubanks was, in fact, Joseph Miller. By that point, Miller was already 78 years old and in no condition to run anymore.
Coincidentally enough, Miller (as Eubanks) was arrested in Texas in 1988 under an assault charge. Fortunately for him, he posted bond and was released. The case seemed to disappear and there’s no record of any further action taken on it.