top of page

Richard McNair: The Story Of The Man Who Mailed Himself Out Of Jail

Despite Richard Lee McNair being a convicted killer, his extraordinary prison escapes are what gave him the most notoriety and ensured he ended up as an inmate in ADX Florence, Colorado's Supermax Prison.

Richard McNair escaped from prison three times before being shipped to Colorado's Supermax.
Richard McNair escaped from prison three times before being shipped to Colorado's Supermax.

Born in Oklahoma on December 19, 1958, Richard Lee McNair was the son of a reserve police officer and was described as being exceptionally intelligent from a very young age. His brother once said: "He is about the smartest person I've ever met. He was a good guy that I always admired - until he made bad choices."

Over the course of many years in prison, McNair escaped three times, which despite being a convicted criminal, is quite an impressive achievement. However, it was in 2006, during his third prison break, that his level of creativity and intelligence really came through.

How Did Richard McNair End Up In Prison?

In Minot, North Dakota, on the evening of November 17, 1987, McNair broke into a grain storage warehouse with the intention of robbing it. However, the attempted robbery was botched when McNair was startled by two men.

Jerome Theis, a truck driver, was shot and killed by McNair, a second man was also shot at but managed to escape and live to tell the tale.

McNair was quickly apprehended by police and during questioning, he surrendered a concealed handgun.

For the fatal shooting, McNair was sentenced to life in prison, he was handed a second life sentence for attempted murder, and a further 30-year sentence for burglary.

It was after the sentencing that Richard McNair turned from murderer to the Houdini of prison escapes.

The Prison Escapes Of Richard McNair

McNair first escaped from custody shortly after his initial arrest. He was being held at the Minot police station in February 1988, and was in a room with three police officers, handcuffed to a chair.

In his pocket, McNair had a tube of lip balm, which he used to lubricate his hands while still handcuffed, greasing them enough to allow him to slip out of the restraints when the detectives left the room.

Richard Lee McNair escaped on foot, resulting in a chase around town from the local police. The escapee ran into a building, where he was pursued up several flights of stairs by officers onto the third floor. Once surrounded, he jumped. The fall injured his back, making it relatively easy for police to detain him.

Richard McNair was later serving his prison sentence at the North Dakota State Penitentiary, when, in October 1992, along with two other prisoners, he escaped through a ventilation duct.

He remained on the run for around ten months until he was recaptured in Grand Island, Nebraska, in July 1993.

McNair was then transferred to a maximum-security federal prison in Louisiana. This was where his most astonishing prison break took place.

Richard McNair Escapes From United States Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana

McNair's job at the Louisiana prison was to repair torn and damaged mailbags so they could be sent out to post offices to be reused. This was where he masterminded his great escape, which he followed through with on April 5, 2006.

Utilising materials available to him, McNair constructed an escape pod, fitted with a breathing tube, hid it under a pile of mailbags on a pallet, and got inside. The pallet was then shrink-wrapped and transported by a forklift to a nearby warehouse outside the prison walls.

Richard Lee McNair waited until the warehouse workers left for lunch and then cut himself out and walked away from the prison. As ingenious as this was, the most astonishing part of his escape was still to come.

Not long after McNair's escape, a police officer spotted him jogging near railroad tracks in Ball, and knowing a prisoner had recently escaped, stopped him.

The entire incident, where McNair managed to convince the officer he was not the fugitive, was captured on the officer's dashboard camera:

Watch The Full Video:

Despite matching the description of the escapee police were looking for, and having no form of identification on him, Richard McNair somehow managed to talk his way out of it.

He explained to the officer that his name was "Robert Jones" and he was simply out for a jog. He even later made the mistake of telling the officer his name was actually "Jimmy Jones", a mistake the officer never noticed.

At one point, the officer said: "You know the bad thing about it, you're matching up to him.

McNair replied with: "Well, that sucks doesn't it."

After around ten minutes, the police officer advised McNair to carry some ID next time he went jogging and the two exchanged a few laughs before McNair was allowed to continue his jog to freedom.

Richard McNair remained a fugitive for a further year and a half, before he was finally caught in Campbellton, New Brunswick, driving a stolen truck on October 24, 2007.

Today, Richard McNair is held in a small concrete cell at the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, which houses some of the world's most dangerous and notorious criminals, such as El Chapo, and the Boston Marathon bomber.

John Stonehouse: The British MP Who Faked His Death & Went To Australia To Marry His Mistress


Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page