I escaped Death Row when guard went to toilet – then hid at police station

A former Death Row inmate who was wrongfully convicted of murder managed to escape while being transported – after a prison guard went to the toilet.

Nick Yarris, 61, spent 22 years awaiting execution in prison, the first three of which were spent in solitary confinement where he wasn't even allowed to speak.

So when he saw an opportunity to make a bid for freedom in February 1985, he took it without a second thought.

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Speaking to James English, host of the Anything Goes podcast, he said: "I was being transported for a new trial.

"We stopped to use the restroom and when I came out of the cubicle the officer standing there holding the door for me had to take a p*ss so bad, he let me go back to the car by myself.

"So the dude standing at the car smoking a cigarette turned around and saw me coming at him, freaked out, grabbed his pistol, and fired a shot at me. No warning, just bam.

"So off we went."

Yarris said he managed to dodge the cops by running 100 yards, turning right, and running 100 yards again repeatedly until he ended up back in the same spot where he started.

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"So while they were screaming at each other, getting on the radio, telling each other the stories they’re going to tell each other and getting their sh** together, I was about 30, 35 yards away from them, laying on my belly, watching them.

"So I looked up and there was a flag for a municipal building which was a police station, and I went and hid there."

Yarris said he stayed hidden behind the police station until he started to freeze and then made a run for it, but the police were hot on his tail and chased him with a helicopter for five and a half hours.

Eventually, he managed to slide down a snow bank and evade his pursuers.

"I found a 1965 green Mustang and I drove that to New York City," he recalled.

Yarris, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was on the run for 25 days before he turned himself in – but his escape attempt landed him another 35 years on top of his existing sentence.

"I ended up with 105 years of sentences plus the death penalty," he recalled.

Yarris was sentenced to death after being wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of Linda Mae Craig in July 1982, at the age of 21.

He spent time in a number of jails including the B Block of Huntingdon Prison in Pennsylvania, which he said was designed to "break you".

He also rubbed shoulders with some of America's most high-profile criminals, including Gary Heidnick whose crimes inspired the movie Silence Of The Lambs, who was his prison neighbour for two and a half years.

After learning about DNA testing in 1988, Yarris became the first Death Row prisoner to request it.

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"If it wasn’t for DNA, I was dead," he said.

"I kept fighting for DNA testing."

But it would take another 15 years before he was finally found innocent of the crime.

In 2003, after a third round of tests, it was found two other men, not Yarris, had committed the murder.

He was released in January 2004 after clearing the charges related to his escape.


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