The Inmate Who “Mailed” Himself Out of Prison

In 1987, Richard Lee McNair was given two life sentences for murder and attempted murder after a botched robbery. He would go on to gain notoriety for three successful escape attempts, which ultimately landed him in a supermax prison. Most criminals would have given up hope of escape after that, but not McNair. Described as “keenly intelligent,” McNair was just getting started. He made another attempt while serving out his sentence at the North Dakota State Penitentiary in 1992, when he managed to slip out of the prison through a ventilation duct. Not only was he successful, but McNair evaded capture for almost nine months before being caught and moved to a high-security penitentiary in Louisiana. However, not even that could stop him from making a final attempt. While working at the prison repairing old mailbags, McNair managed to construct a small pod for himself, and on April 5, 2006, he was able to hide beneath a pile of mailbags being transported from the prison by forklift. Incredibly, a police officer actually spotted McNair running across the tracks that day, and the two shared a laugh about how he matched closely the description of an escaped prisoner. The officer ultimately let him go, advising him to carry ID with him next time he went for a jog. McNair was then able to make his way across the border into Canada, evading recapture for about a year and a half. McNair was eventually caught by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police 100 miles north of the border in Campbellton, New Brunswick, on October 24, 2007 while driving a stolen truck. He had grown a full mustache and beard by this time, and possessed multiple fake IDs. After eventually admitting to his true identity, McNair was placed in a maximum security prison in a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. There has — at least so far — been no reports of a fourth escape attempt.