John Goodin recalls he had only one goal after fleeing from the Jess Dunn Correctional Center in 1980 — to kill his then-wife and be reunited with his son.
Authorities caught up with him before he was able to carry out his plan.
Seventy-seven Oklahoma offenders still at large escaped from state prisons or walked away from community correction centers and halfway houses. The fugitives range from murder and drug trafficking convicts to freed inmates who missed appointments with their parole officers and then disappeared.
Oklahoma has had no escapes from maximum security prisons in the last five years. Most Department of Corrections escapes are from community security facilities, halfway houses and minimum security prisons.
Goodin, now 53, pleaded guilty to rape in 1979 and was serving a five-year sentence at a minimum security prison in Taft when he escaped. Officers found him a few hours later at the home of his sister.Planning breakouts
Goodin, who finished serving his sentence in 1982, said most inmates who plan an escape fail to consider what they will do once outside. He said he once helped two men escape and they were found shortly afterward, sleeping under a railroad bridge.
DOC spokesman Jerry Massie said most are relieved to be caught.
"We'll start contacting family members and before long they run out of places to go and resources," he said. "They usually find out it's not as much fun as they thought it would be."
Looking over your shoulder every minute of the day can be exhausting, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Chad Hunt. "Once they cross those walls and they're on the lam it becomes much harder for them.
"Some ... will flat out tell you it was exhausting being on the run. They become extremely paranoid, especially after the first couple of weeks."On the lam
Goodin said he decided to escape after his then-wife threatened to divorce him. "She said, ‘if you give me any problem over it, you won't see your boy no more.'"
He said he was so upset that he downed a few pints of Everclear and smoked some marijuana, which he obtained in prison, and devised an escape plan.
"I knew where the training director's state-issued car was, and I knew that every time they used that vehicle they filled it up," he said. "And I knew where the keys were."
Goodin broke into the training academy during the early morning hours and took the car, driving north to Dewey. He stopped at a lounge before walking to his sister's house nearby.
"I got my 9mm and a box of shells," said Goodin, adding his sister didn't even know he was at the house.
Authorities surrounded the sister's home. "I stepped out on the front porch and it lit up like daylight out there," he said.
Goodin was slapped with two additional charges, escape and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and was sent to a medium security prison. He completed his sentences in November 1982.
Now remarried, Goodin lives in Canyon, Texas, and is in the process of starting a rehabilitation program for recovering addicts and inmates.Oklahoma escapees
Oklahoma prisons house about 25,000 convicted offenders. The three highest-security prisons are Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester and Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, McCloud.
The DOC also contracts with private correctional facilities in Holdenville, Cushing and Lawton to help handle its overload of medium and maximum security offenders.
In 2008, there were 145 escapes from DOC facilities. The number dropped to 122 in 2009 but increased to 173 in 2010.
Those numbers do not include parole absconders but do include escapes and walk-aways from community corrections facilities, halfway houses and community work programs.Private Prison escape
Two inmates, Charles McDaniels and Tony Ellison, escaped from the private medium-security Great Plains Correctional facility in western Oklahoma in 2007. The facility is now closed.
McDaniels was in prison for first-degree murder. Ellison was serving time for auto theft and a previous escape attempt.
After breaking into homes in Hinton and Oklahoma City and abducting a woman, they made their way to Tulsa where police gave chase. The escapees abandoned their car and fled on foot. Moments later, Tulsa police began getting reports of burglar alarms going off.
"They were going from house to house, breaking in trying to get away from us," Hunt said.
Eventually both were caught, but Ellison, who was 23, was found dead in his cell at the Tulsa County jail a few days later.
"It turns out that they had a suicide pact if they were ever caught and he went through with it," Hunt said.Search begins
Every prison has an emergency response team that is assembled after a reported escape. Local and state law enforcement agencies are notified.
People who live near the prison and who have signed up for escape notifications are informed, usually by telephone.
Interviews are conducted with cellmates, prison friends and in some cases family members of the escapees. The files of the escapees are studied for clues such as what friends or relatives they might go to for help.
Emergency response teams of 15 to 40 members can be deployed quickly.
"These teams are made up of correctional officers who go through our academy and who are CLEET certified," Massie said. "They're trained on how to conduct road blocks."Working with U.S. Marshals
U.S. Marshals also get involved. Hunt said the agency has working agreements with most law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma.
What follows is a whirlwind of activity. Everything about the escapee is explored.
"We examine their criminal history, their manner of escape, whether or not they had inside or outside help, we're going to find out who might have helped them out," Hunt said. "It's a very quick, very intense period of information-gathering."
Authorities check to learn about any area auto thefts or burglaries.
"Most of the time the escapee has very little on them," Hunt said. "They're looking to find resources very quickly whether that's breaking into a house to get clothes or stealing a car."High profile escapes
Former Warden Jack Cowley saw his share of escapes during his 26-year DOC career. He was warden at the Oklahoma State Reformatory when convicted murderer Randolph Dial escaped with a deputy warden's wife, Bobbi Parker.
"There's always escapes," Cowley said. "They're all a result of some staff error."
Dial was sent to prison after turning himself in 10 years after he murdered a karate instructor in 1981.
Cowley said he was in the process of building an industry where inmates worked on pottery. He said he trusted Dial.
"Dial was allowed to work outside of the building in the deputy warden's house while revamping the pottery program. He was out there making prototypes of what we wanted to do," he said.
Everything was going according to plan until Dial left the house in a van on Aug. 30, 1994 with Parker. At first, it appeared as if Dial might have kidnapped Parker, but a jury thought otherwise.
Dial died in 2007, and Parker was sentenced to one year in prison on Nov. 7 for helping an inmate escape.
"You never really know a hundred percent what people will do," Cowley said. "When inmates escape, you always put out that they're dangerous."
In 1995, Cowley said he had another high profile escape on his hands when two inmates escaped from Granite through an underground tunnel.
Adam Thomas Wright, 26, and Dale Bruce Wadsworth, 43, escaped by digging a tunnel underneath the old west cell house, he said. The duo obtained access to the pipe chases by rigging the locks and were able to dig out of the prison, Cowley said.
Wright was serving two life terms without parole for killing an Anadarko wrecker service operator and his 4-year-old grandson in 1988. Wadsworth was serving a 10-year sentence for forgery in Comanche County.
After receiving a note from a trusted inmate who said they were digging a tunnel, Cowley said he asked staff to see if it was true. He was told it wasn't true, and two days later the two escaped.
"I learned later that he (staff member) actually saw where they were digging," he said.
The duo kidnapped a woman near Elk City, stole her van, raped her and held her baby out of the car window while they were being pursued, Cowley said.
"It was a total disaster," he said. "It was horrible."
On Nov. 3, Wright committed suicide and was found hanging in his cell at the penitentiary in McAlester.Escape attempts
Throughout the years, Cowley said he has seen numerous creative ways inmates will try to escape — attempt to climb over the razor wire, hide in garbage trucks, dress up as officers and hide in laundry carts.
"If a person loses their liberty, we've got to assume they're going to think of a way to get it back," he said.