From The Shawshank Redemption to Ernest Goes To Jail, we love rooting for clever prisoners and the hijinks they get into on their way to freedom. Darryl Norris is one of those prisoners, and this is the story of his escape. He’s not the hero of this story; he’s just the main character. Nobody is trying to justify his crimes or his escape — we just want this up here as a reference in case the government ever catches on to our knockoff Pokemon business.
#5. Escape Requires More Resourcefulness Than A MacGyver Episode
In 2008, Darryl was arrested for the shooting death of a store clerk during a robbery. He held a fake gun to the man’s chest, but his partner, Mars Angel Weidemann (with a name like that, you’re either destined for a life of crime or a life starring in anime), brought a real one and shot the clerk dead. Weidemann received a life sentence, while Darryl was sentenced to 45 years. Since waiting until his mid-70s to leave prison sounded like a poor retirement plan, Darryl opted to bust out.
Darryl’s particular escape was only possible because there was a metal grate right above his bunk bed. That grate was covered with Plexiglas and further reinforced with metal bars. So how in the hell did Darryl get through something like that without power tools or even a pocket knife?
“I sawed the bars off with the metal teeth from some barber clippers. I spun a bunch of thread from sheets I dismantled and made a thicker line — like kite string. I used that to saw through the Plexiglas. The action from the friction creates heat, so it’s just like a saw. I made a homemade candle (with baby oil, hair grease, etc.) to burn holes through the glass — well, get it hot enough so I could punch something through.”
The media, always eager to jump on the next fad diet, attributed Darryl’s escape to the hot new Prison Cleanse:
Darryl’s girlfriend, Christee, set the record straight:
“Each of the members in his tank were questioned, each came up with a different story as to how he did it, and in the end people just ran with the one that sounded the most interesting. Darryl has always been a slender guy — 6 foot, about 160 pounds. He worked out constantly before the escape in order to have the muscular strength and fortitude he was sure it would require. There were no crash diets involved.”
Well, shit. We already bought all this meat loaf and hired some bald white guys to chase us around with shivs — now you’re telling us we’re stuck with these love handles through bikini season?
#4. You Can Bribe The Guards … With Less Work
The day before Darryl’s escape, the floor jailers decided to give an impromptu shakedown, starting with the cell across the hall. “I start sweating. I couldn’t just cover the whole thing up with newspaper.”
Darryl tried to allay their suspicion by talking and joking with the guards across the hall, in the hope that they’d focus on him and not his escape-ready roof. “I’m doing this to soften them up. I know they’re lazy, even if one did try to act like real police. They finished up over there, and before they brought the inmates back I propositioned them. The deal I made was I’d pass them a hefty amount of contraband through the window, they wouldn’t have to do any work, and we wouldn’t have to go through the bullshit ordeal.”
The guard Darryl propositioned convinced her boss to take his deal. Darryl was in the clear and also horrifyingly grateful:
“I would have eaten the corn from her asshole right then.”
You, uh … you probably won’t see that particular expression of gratitude on any Hallmark cards in the near future.
#3. The Two Things You Need To Escape Prison: Hair Grease And Friendship
That narrowly avoided inspection convinced Darryl that he’d reached a now-or-never moment:
“So, that night and part of the next day I finish off the Plexiglas. The problem was that the hole seemed to be too small.”
Skinny as he was, Darryl still couldn’t Shawshank his way up through the opening he’d made. So he stripped to his boxers and shoes and rubbed himself down with hair grease, which is apparently the escapee’s Swiss Army knife. Thus properly lubed, he was able to fit into the crawlspace above the Plexiglas.
“Now I’m in the crawl space … I crawl around for an hour, checking vents. This whole jail is made of steel, so all the vents are welded. I finally settle on the AC unit connected to my tank. The AC is on the roof of the building, it’s connected to the tank’s vent by AC ducts (a cardboard and tinfoil material). I tear that away and squat down on top of the tank’s vent. Then I slowly stand up, hands up, with the cardboard material in my hands in case there’s a fan blade in my path. There wasn’t. Cold air is blasting all around like a whirlwind. It’s completely dark. Now what? I’m feeling around, nothing but cold metal. Then I start pushing on the sides. Suddenly, I see a sliver of light. It’s a cover on the unit held down by screws. I push really hard and … she comes loose! Light came flooding in along with the late-July heat. Freedom.”
Once he knew he’d found a way out, Darryl dropped back down and asked if any of his cellmates wanted to come with him. They declined, but one of them passed him his T-shirt and the info of a guy he knew on the outside. His cellmates also agreed to destroy Darryl’s remaining property in the cell, so dogs wouldn’t be able to pick up his scent. One inmate even switched mattresses with Darryl to make it that much more difficult. And so Darryl got by with a little help from his friends — he hopped the jail roof and ran for freedom.
#2. OK, You’ve Escaped. Now What?
Now Darryl was on the streets of Dallas, walking out in broad daylight like a free man. Only he didn’tlook like a free man. As Darryl’s girlfriend explained:
“He had on a T-shirt, boxers, and cheap Velcro shoes that are about as thick as six sheets of paper. To top it off, the uniforms were orange. His hair had gotten long, and he had a slight beard.”
His first plan was to try to bum rides from passing motorists. They were about as receptive as most of you would be if a clearly escaped, half-naked convict stuck his thumb out at you.
When that failed, Darryl headed on foot for his dad’s house. His father, understandably, didn’t want to join his son in prison, so he refused to help. But Darryl was able to get into the storage shed behind his dad’s house and grab some of his stuff, including a change of clothes. Unfortunately for Darryl, he left the phone number of his cellmate’s friend behind. “That’s when my plans went out of the window.”
Dang. We haven’t had to remember a phone number since 2002. We would totally die behind bars.
#1. An Escaped Convict Never Knows Whom To Trust
Darryl fled through the woods for miles, trying to find his way to the home of some close friends. Darryl’s quite frankly unreasonable luck held out, and a passing driver offered him a ride.
His girlfriend told us: “He hops in and they chat a little. The whole time, his mind is racing. He wants the car, but he doesn’t want to kill her.” (And that, kids, is why you should be wary of picking up hitchhikers!) “Then again, if he just steals the car, then the cops will have a better tail on him. They come to an intersection. He decides to test her. If she failed, he’d steal the car.”
Darryl clarifies: “I ask, ‘Are you a cop or something?’ I know she wasn’t. I needed to see how she’d respond. ‘Naw, I’m a criminal just like yourself.’ I had to laugh at that. She wasn’t stupid — other than picking up strange men. ‘OK, then, criminal. I just escaped from the county jail, and I need to go that way.’ ‘Aw shit, no problem!’ Eventually, we get near the place I need to be. ‘Watch for me on the news, and don’t trip out. Thanks for the ride.'”
As far as Darryl knows, she never reported him to the police. Not true of his friends, though: When he finally made it to them, they gave him a change of clothes and five bucks. “Get yourself a foot-long on me,” the friends presumably said.
Thus equipped, Darryl fled into the woods. Shortly after, he saw helicopters. His friends had called the cops. That just goes to show you: Never trust anybody with a Subway punch-card.
Darryl eventually made it to the home of some trustworthy, reliable, more Quiznos-frequenting friends. They put a care package together for him: food, shoes, a hat, cash, a lighter, and a very old pack of cigarettes. (“Those were mine when I got locked up. Three months old. Finely aged!”) The next day, he met with an old drinking buddy. They got stoned together, and then his friend went off and called the cops. Darryl managed to get away and contact his cellmate’s buddy on the outside (the original plan, remember?) who agreed to pick him up … and then also ratted him out to the cops.
“I pack everything up and get ready to leave. I peek out of the window and see cops in the parking lot. The pool is in front of my room. There’s a family with kids in it. I put on my shorts and walk out with a towel, eyes down. I know the place is surrounded. The family gets out when I slip in. Cops eventually run up on me with guns drawn. I wished I had one myself. Cuffed and shackled, put in the car wet. They want me to sign something so they can get in my room. I didn’t care. I made a deal with them to sign it for a few cigarettes. Six cops surround me while I smoke. News cameras are trying to catch a shot of me. In the car, two detectives sit on either side of me. I still want to make a grab for the driver’s gun anyway.”
Darryl is back in prison now, and likely will be for a very long time. He attempted one more escape, but it just didn’t take. If there’s one lesson you get from all of this, let it be: Don’t rob folks, even with a fake gun. If there are two lessons, let the other be: Always carry hair grease.