Two Swim Away in Dark; One Makes It to S.F. Shore
Second Convict Is Found Clinging to Rock in Bay—They Used Water Wings
Two tough long-term convicts broke out of crumbling Alcatraz Prison at dusk last night but were stopped short in their bid for freedom by the stronger prison of San Francisco Bay.
The two, Darl Lee Parker and John Paul Scott were first missed at 5:47 p.m. as a routine cell check was being made.
Parker was recaptured by prison guards 25 minutes later as he clung half-drowned and trembling from exposure, to a cluster of rocks known as “Little Alcatraz,” a scant 100 yards west of the prison.
Scott persisted longer but was near death when he washed ashore at Fort Point, just inside the Golden Gate Bridge and nearly three miles from the prison shortly after 7 p.m.
In fact, the full report to the Military Police at the Presidio from a pair of teenagers was to the effect that there was a “body” on the rocks.
When the MPs and the Army fire department arrived at the scene, the “body” began to stir, however, and Scott was rushed to Letterman Hospital “unconscious and in a state of shock,” Presidio officials said.
Scott was revived, and his condition improved rapidly under treatment at Letterman. Alcatraz authorities returned him to the prison dispensary last night.
Alcatraz officials said Parker and Scott made their escape from the basement of the “culinary unit” beneath the kitchen at the west end of the main cell house.
They said the pair wriggled to freedom through a window but added, “The method of opening has not yet been determined.”
Scott reportedly told questioners at Letterman that he and Parker had sawed through the window bars using household cleanser as an abrasive.
Then the two apparently made their way through the drizzle, fog and growing darkness to the low but rugged cliffs on the island’s western side, descended and slipped into the water.
The precise time that the convicts actually entered the water was still undetermined last night, but the tides around the island were increasing from slack at 4:41 p.m. toward a maximum ebb flow toward the Golden Gate of three knots at 7:49 p.m.
Parker apparently lost his nerve quickly and took his precarious refuge on “Little Alcatraz,” but Scott, buoyed by make-shift water wings, made of blue denim clothing, swam on.
The water wings were fashioned from the sleeves of a prison shirt and several rubber surgical gloves. The gloves were inflated, tied off at the cuff and stuffed inside the sleeves, which Scott had tied around his waist.
The Coast Guard said the seas were “fairly calm” at the time of the escape, but even so the relentless currents, icy water and endless swells were too much for the desperate man.
Finally caught by the Fort Point back eddy—well known to the Bay Area’s small boat sailors—Scott was washed onto the rock and lay naked except for his socks and completely helpless until the authorities came to his rescue.
Three 40-foot Coast Guard cutters, an 82-foot patrol boat and the Coast Guard’s harbor tug criss-crossed the area between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate constantly during the 1 1/2-hour search.
But Scott apparently drifted right through their network in the murky darkness, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
John Paul Scott is returned to Alcatraz after his three-mile swim across San Francisco Bay.
Scott, a short, stocky man of 35, was serving a 30-year sentence at Alcatraz for bank robbery and possession of unregistered firearms. He was sentenced at Lexington, Ky., and was scheduled for release in 1977. His home town is Leitchfield, Ky.
Parker, who is 31, was serving a 50-year sentence for bank robbery, attempted escape and kidnaping. He was sentenced in the Northern Federal Court District of Indiana. His home town is Canton, Ohio.
Yesterday’s escape showed some similarities to the breakout last June 11 when the brothers John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Lee Morris fled into the bay under cover of fog.
The three are still missing. Prison officials maintain they drowned. But the FBI still lists them as “wanted,” and will continue to until there is proof they died in the icy currents of the bay.
Using spoons honed to razor sharpness, the three bank robbers dug their way out of a thick concrete cell block and made their way in the darkness past guards and gun towers to the rocky shoreline of the isle.
It is known they had made makeshift water-wings from materials stolen from prison stores.
It is known they managed to make it off the island.
What remains a mystery to this day is whether they died in the depths of the bay—or swam to freedom.
Morris, 35, the toughest and smartest of the three, is credited with masterminding the escape.
He found eager accomplices in the Anglins, John, 32, and Clarence, 31, who were serving long terms for bank hold-ups in the south.
Evidence indicates they worked for many months, with help from other prisoners, to gain exit from their cells.
As far as Alcatraz officials are concerned, the effort was in vain.
“They drowned,” said Warden Olin Blackwell. “I am certain this is what occurred.”
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 17 December 1962, pages 1 and 16.