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The Remarkable Story of the Murderer Richard Lee McNair

Surely a Netflix series is in the offing?

In 1988, when the police in Minot, North Dakota slapped the cuffs on Richard Lee McNair they must have been relieved. However, the authorities problems with this criminal were only just beginning.

McNair had been carrying out a burglary in 1987 when he was surprised by two men who came across him. He murdered Jerry Thies and shot the other man four times, who remarkably managed to survive. He was eventually sentenced to two life sentences for murder and attempted murder, alongside thirty years for the initial burglary.

However, ever since he has entered the prison system, McNair has proved a thorn in the side for the authorities, having made three successful escape attempts. His first attempt came shortly after his arrest, when he was left in an interrogation room with three detectives. McNair used lip balm to slide his way out of his handcuffs and proceeded to lead officers on a wild goose chase through Minot.

McNair was eventually recaptured after he attempted to jump from the roof of a building onto a tree branch, which promptly broke, and left him on the ground having injured his back. This injury didn’t whet his appetite to escape however.

Upon his sentencing, McNair was incarcerated in North Dakota State Penitentiary. In 1992, he and two other inmates, absconded from the prison. However, his two friends were both recaptured with a matter of days, unlike McNair who remained on the road for ten months, travelling up and down the United States in stolen cars. He was eventually returned to a prison in Minnesota in 1993 after being captured in Nebraska.

Over the next decade or so McNair carefully played the system, and was moved between multiple prisons, after realising he was unable to escape at various facilities he was held in. This would lead to his most daring escape in April 2006.

McNair was being held in a penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana and had been undertaking work duties where he fixed torn mail bags. He constructed an ‘escape pod’ which was covered over with mail bags and placed on a pallet, which was then moved to a warehouse outside of the prison. Once he was alone, McNair cut himself out of the escape pod and knew that he had around five hours before prison staff would be aware of his disappearance.

On his way to a nearby town, McNair was stopped by a police officer, who was searching for the missing prisoner. The convict managed to convince the officer he was out for a jog and was working on a Hurricane Katrina relief project, despite giving the officer two different names in the space of five minutes. The encounter was captured from the police car’s dashcam:

The officer later blamed the poor quality photo of McNair that he had been provided with and stated that the description he was given over the radio didn’t resemble the escapee.

Having successfully escaped McNair escaped to Canada and remained on the run for over a year. In October 2007, a chance sighting of the van that McNair was using, spotted by an off-duty officer, eventually led to his recapture the next day in Campbellton. Officers reported that McNair was cooperative and joked with the officers, who he later described as ‘good men doing their job.’

McNair, now sixty-one, has been imprisoned since his recapture in ADX Florence. This is widely viewed as the most secure and oppressive prison in the United States, with prisoners confined to their cells for twenty-three hours a day. The facility harbours some of the most dangerous criminals in the US, including the Boston Marathon bomber.

Since his capture, McNair has been in contact with a journalist from Campbellton, Byron Christopher, who has written a book on McNair’s exploits. However, his media presence has been restricted due to the prison’s tight restrictions on outside contact.

Byron Christopher
Credit – Wikimedia

Due to the drama of McNair’s escapes, it is easy to forget that he is a convicted murderer. With his imprisonment in ADX Florence, it seems unlikely he will ever escape again. However, I’m sure he’ll keep trying.

Check out this bizarre post from a former pro wrestler,  who seemed to admit killing someone in a post on FaceBook.

Featured Image Credit – Wikimedia

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