17 August 2011

a wst... global exclusive: case study: the richard lee mcnair file

wst... note: this is an extremely lengthy and difficult post. yet one of the most interesting posts that we've ever done.
while there is a chance that some may interpret this as our "blowing our own horn" so-to-speak thats really not the case as there is a chance that wst... might receive a sentence or two passing reference in a book about richard lee mcnair, it gave us a good opportunity to relive the events of the spring of 2006 ... and 17 november 1987.
click picture to enlarge
"notice of escaped federal prisoner" original fax sent at 1:53 pm cdt by the bureau of prisons
source: byron christopher via: roy hebron

where to begin ... around mid morning on wednesday, 05 april 2006, the united states penitentiary in pollock, louisiana inmate, richard lee mcnair, "mailed" himself to freedom.

wst... first learned of it later that evening when we happened to glance at the television screen and read kalb's crawl -- which we posted about here.

we assumed that the escapee would be captured overnight and that would be the end of it. boy were we wrong.

on the morning of 06 april we learned that the prisoner had not been captured. sometime before 10:33 am gannett/the alexandria daily town talk newspaper had acquired and uploaded to their website www.thetowntalk.com a dashcam video between a ball, la., policeman and the escapee in which the policeman and mcnair, playing a runner, exchanged pleasantries before the ball cop shook mcnair's hand and let him continue his run.

thus began mcnair's "the running man" saga.

we really cant remember what if any opinion we had of the ball cop and what he did or didnt do in the mcnair stop. we just knew that the video was an incredible find.

at that time youtube was fairly new we didnt even have an account there so we opened one and we attempted several times to add it there but they had a strict 10 minute in length and 100 mb file size per video limitation and the ball cop video is seven seconds over the 10 minutes cutoff and at 101 mb was always rejected.

so we uploaded it to google video and posted it here.

now it's instantaneous, however, in those days, at least as far as wst... posts were concerned, it took google up to 24 hours to fully spider and index our postings into their search engine.

the evening of april 6th, we noticed that our first post containing the kalb crawl was beginning to receive a lot of traffic from googlers searching for mcnair news. so we updated it with a link to the second post -- the one containing the embedded dashcam video.

not long after the second post became the primary post that google would send traffic to.

looking back at that post now the length of it and all the updates scattered around, it hardly makes any sense but due to all the interest in mcnair's escape we were attempting to keep everything on one page to avoid creating another post and waiting for google to catch up again.

many of the visitors were from the feds - doj, homeland security, fbi, bop and police departments. still many more visitors were from regular citizens who were concerned that they might live in the path that mcnair was taking and were looking for the latest news and links.

one news article that we were able to acquire and repost with his permission was written by our friend andrew w. griffin. mr. griffin had been a reporter with the alexandria daily town talk and he had left only a few months before to take a job with the lawton, oklahoma, constitution which as it turned out is mcnair's hometown newspaper.

living here, on the same side of the red river and not that far, as the crow flies, from where everything was taking place, the longer this "cold blooded killer" was on the loose made it easy to identify and empathize with the fear and tension that folks over in the tioga area were feeling.

so it became like an obligation or a challenge really that as long as mcnair was on the loose and so many people were looking for information about his whereabouts that we would attempt to post all the updates that we could.

some visitors now may think that we were just attempting to draw traffic here for the ad revenue. however, we didnt add google adsense until nearly 21/2 years later in september 2008.

after it was confirmed that mcnair was out of the area the story was pretty much over as far as we could tell. we continued to post a few updates about him from time-to-time because of the local interest
source: adatlantic.com 2010 better newspapers competition 32 page [12.2mb].pdf
click here to download hi-res scan of section b cover page 05 august 2009 campbellton tribune
one page .pdf [631 kb]

unbeknownst to us though was that in canada and elsewhere the mcnair escape and 18 months on the lam generated a massive amount of interest and remains a sensation to this day.

one interesting tidbit that we learned -- we know alex cenla will love this -- is that apparently, cenla is receiving tour buses sent here at least in part by interest in the mcnair escape.

in the fall of 2008, canadian crime reporter, byron christopher received a lead from a colleague about a federal prisoner who escaped and made his way all the way to canada before being captured.

mr. christopher explains in the below audio file how one thing led to another and he began corresponding with mcnair, now held at the florence, colorado, supermax federal penitentiary.

actually, we had heard of byron christopher before. in january 2009, wst... fave mike magnoli (now with katc in lafayette, la.), did a local interest story about mcnair and interviewed mr. christopher by phone about their burgeoning correspondence. we posted about it here.

as far as we can tell, that january 2009 post is the last we heard anything about mcnair.

until last sunday, 07 august 2011, when out of the blue we received an email from byron christopher.

mr. christopher's interest was in our 13 april 2006 post "riding the richard lee mcnair escape train." in that post we mentioned all the various traffic that the mcnair escape was generating.

so we emailed him back and again, one thing led to another and we wound up having two telephone conversations with him that afternoon and evening.

mr. christopher had been commissioned to write a case study of the mcnair case which will be an enlargement of his award winning "the running man" series that ran in the campbellton tribune newspaper from august 2009.

all last week mr. christopher answered our follow-up questions and sent us more information about his work.

while mcnair's escape was the cause for all the excitement and tension around cenla, we often wondered what the story was behind why mcnair was in prison for in the first place.

in the msm accounts you might get a sentence here or a paragraph there touching on the 17 november 1987 incident in which mcnair, reportedly, shot two men, killing one when they walked in on him burgling a grain elevator office in minot, north dakota.

mr. christopher made available to us several passages from his draft about mcnair's escape, the [cenla part of the] search and the ball police officer/dashcam incident.

both passages are painstakingly researched. where possible the participants describe what happened in their own words. this was the result of mr. christopher's travels to cenla, north dakota and elsewhere to interview anyone as well as view evidence thats been connected to mcnair.

mr. christopher has perfected a technique in his case study of allowing mcnair to tell the his story, in his own words, while mr. christopher fills in around that with whats happening based on his research.

one of our concerns was whether this was all an attempt to glorify mcnair.

for sure, the mcnair escape and subsequent 18 months on the lam makes for a compelling story. just how did a 47-year-old man escape from a federal prison in grant parish, louisiana, on foot, with no money, with no outside accomplices and with the full force of the federal government as well as every parish and county sheriff in the country out looking for him -- make it all the way to canada?

we're happy to report that from the passages that we've read from mr. christopher's case study that the central louisiana police and people were treated very well -- including ball policeman carl bordelon, whom mr. christopher says was given a bad rap by the media and after being privy to mr. christpher's research and methods we believe him.

but there was that reason for mcnair's being in jail to start with: the 17 november 1987 minot, north dakota shootings and murder.

the murder and shootings are not glossed over in any way whatsoever. mr. christopher has allowed mcnair, in his own words, to describe the events of that night, while using the technique we described before, he went back and filled in around mcnair's words with the words of the surviving victim dick kitzman, first responders and another grain elevator employee, jerry omvig who arrived at the scene right after it happened.

mr. christopher also drew from his viewing of the crime scene photos and police reports including a transcript (to be in the book) of dick kitzman's 911 call.
jerry thies tombstone
fort snelling military cemetery, minneapolis, minnesota
photo credit: byron christopher, december 2010
the vivid recounting of the break-in, shootings and murder as well as mcnair's reasoning for it all, are as disturbing as their inclusion is necessary.

we understand that the family of the slain trucker, jerome "jerry" theodore thies, are very reluctant to talk to the media.

while we've never had an immediate member of our family murdered, so we cannot know exactly how they feel, we can understand on some levels where they are coming from.

if we could, we would probably tell them that for reasons known only to god and satan, that the lives of mr. thies, dick kitzman, larry omvig and others are forever linked to richard lee mcnair and that as long as mcnair's story is being told so will mr. thies and he will not be forgotten.

as for us, we dont hate mr. mcnair, nor do we, even if we could, damn him to hell for all eternity. we believe that he deeply regrets what he did and how he messed up his own life.

mcnair writes that back then he was like a selfish, spoilt child. "a piece of shit." that if north dakota, at the time, had the death penalty that he would have received it and deserved it. we agree.

which brings us back to the present -- on sunday evening 14 august 2011, we had an opportunity to have a telephone conversation with byron christopher about all this. the embed is below.

towards the end, mr. christopher plays an audio clip from a home move that mcnair made while on the lam.

this is the first time that mcnair's voice has been broadcast publicly -- exclusively from wst...

link to audio download page
wst... note: this is a telephone conversation we had with byron christopher on sunday, 14 august 2011. this is not an "interview" or represented as such.

although we had chatted by phone with mr. christopher for about 30 - 45 minutes the previous sunday as well as emailed back and forth all week -- we still became a bit nervous at the beginning - but such is life.
related posts
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  • oopsie no2 ball cops capture then release escaped fed prisoner
  • riding the richard lee mcnair escape train
  • richard lee mcnair spotted in canada
  • richard lee mcnair latest
  • **flash** richard lee mcnair video no2 on google video
  • **flash** richard lee mcnair breaks previous escape record
  • richard lee mcnair still free one year later
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  • richard lee mcnair captured
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  • richard lee mcnair ordered deported from canada
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  • richard lee mcnair arresting officer interview
  • richard lee mcnair writes to edmonton crime reporter byron christopher
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