Every July 4th, the United States celebrates Independence Day, in honor of the occasion in which the nation’s founders broke free from Mother England. From coast to coast, it’s a happy event marked by parades, parties, and fireworks.
The following five notorious U.S. criminals also have their own personal Independence Days — i.e., the date on which they broke out of prison and never got nabbed — although it’s unlikely that anyone but themselves consider such anniversaries worth celebrating.1. GLEN STEWART GODWIN
Independence Days: June 5, 1987 and September 1, 1991
Escaped From: Folsom State Prison, California; and Puente Grande Prison, Guadalajara, Mexico
In 1980, Glen Stewart Godwin went from being a tool salesman with no arrest record to craven killer when he and his roommate beat, strangled, and stabbed a drug dealer friend of theirs to death.
Afterward, Godwin blew up the dealer’s truck — with its ex-owner’s body inside — in an attempt to destroy the evidence. It didn’t work. Godwin ended up with a 26-year sentence and, after attempting to break out of the medium-security Deuel Vocational Institute, got transferred to Folsom to do hard time.
Four years later, Godwin escaped from Folsom and made his way to Mexico, where he fell in with a drug gang. He got busted down there, too, and sentenced to seven and a half years, of which he only served a few months. In September 1991, Godwin broke free and he remains at large today. [FBI]
Independence Day: May 10, 1916
Escaped From: Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane, Poughkeepsie, New York
Arriving with waves of other immigrants in 1914, the particularly peculiar Frederick Mors landed in New York City from his homeland of Austria-Hungary.
Being fluent in both German and English, he quickly got a job at the German Odd Fellows Home, an elderly-care facility in the Bronx. Once there, Mors proved to be the oddest fellow of all. He fatally poisoned eight residents and told police:
“When you give an old person chloroform, it’s like putting a baby to sleep. It frees them from all pain. It is humane and kind-hearted.”
Mors’ murders promptly got him locked up in the Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane in 1915. The following year, just after word came down that he’d be deported back to Austria, Mors flood the coop and was never heard from again.
[Ephemeral New York]
Independence Day: April 29, 1969
Escaped From: Camp Waterloo, Illinois
Lifelong criminal Jerry Bergevin ran out of luck in 1962. After more than a decade of legal dust-ups involving fights, thefts, and safe-cracking, he got caught breaking into a Flint, Michigan, drugstore and received a sentence of 10 to 15 years.
After doing seven years hard time, authorities approved Bergevin’s transfer to the Camp Waterloo work facility across the border in Illinois, where he would study to become a dental technician. Immediately upon arrival, Bergevin saw an opportunity to run, and he took it. Nobody ever found him.
Michigan finally called off its search for Bergevin in 2013. If alive, he would have been 80 — and maybe even a dental technician. [USA Today]
Independence Day: February 21, 1990
Escaped From: Polk Correctional Institution, Florida
During a 1975 argument in a Sarasota, Florida, bowling alley parking lot, Glen Stark Chambers pulled his girlfriend Connie Weeks from her car and beat her to death on the pavement. Later that year, a court sentenced him to death (his penalty was later lowered to life in prison).
After one previous unsuccessful escape attempt, Chambers pulled it off in 1990. While making office furniture, he hid inside a crate that other inmates loaded onto a delivery truck before it pulled out the Polk Correctional Institution. Chambers managed to change clothes inside the box and slip free while no one was looking.
While Chambers has never been captured, he has been reportedly spotted several times throughout the years, usually along Florida’s Gulf Coast. If he’s still out there, he’s now 66 years old. [Daily Mail]Related: Escaped Inmate Found in Dishwasher
5. ASSATA SHAKUR aka JOANNE DEBORAH CHESIMARD
Independence Day: November 2, 1979
Escaped From: Clinton Correctional Facility for Women, New Jersey
Assata Olugbala Shakur, who began life as Joanne Chesimard, is unique to this list in that, although she escaped from captivity in Union City, New Jersey, authorities know exactly where she is today: Havana, Cuba.
As a radical Black Panther, Shakur allegedly engaged in a violent crime spree from 1971 to 1973 that included bank robbery, kidnapping, attempted murder, and armed robbery. Numerous law enforcement officers were shot in the process, some of them fatally.
The run climaxed with a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike that killed State Trooper Werner Foerster. Shakur, severely wounded during the melee, gave up to responding officers.
Six years later, three members of the Black Liberation Army visited Shakur in jail. They whipped out handguns, took three guards hostage, and commandeered a prison van, taking Shakur with them.
For the next five years, Shakur lived on the run before making to Cuba, where she begged for political asylum in 1984. President Fidel Castro was only too happy to oblige, and one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Terrorists has lived and worked in Havana ever since. [The Guardian]
Celebrate Independence Day by binge-watching Investigation Discovery’s playlist about Fugitives That Tried To Regain Their Independence on ID GO now!
Main photo: Glen Stewart Godwin / Wanted Poster [FBI]