Fifty years and a day after their escape from Alcatraz on June 11, 1962, the U.S. Marshals Service remains committed to finding Frank Morris and brothers Clarence and John Anglin. The three are the only men to escape from the U.S. Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island who remain unaccounted for.
According to the Marshals Service, the escape plan was the result of more than a year of planning, and included the design of a life raft and life preservers fashioned from more than 50 raincoats.
They fabricated lifelike dummies to fool guards during night bed checks, using scraps of hair from the prison barbershop to make the mock-ups look more realistic. And they enlarged ventilation holes in their cell walls which they created with spoons and concealed with cardboard replicas of vent covers.
The Marshals Service says the three escaped that Monday night through the air vents and made their way to the northeast part of the island. There, they climbed over a 15-foot fence and entered the choppy Bay waters where they inflated a makeshift raft and three life preservers and slipped into the water.
The three men were never seen again. Most experts feel they probably drowned in the chilly water. Four days after their escape, a bag containing photos belonging to one of the men was found in San Francisco Bay.
But other reports from the time speculated that the inmates escaped to nearby Angel Island. A fourth inmate, Allen West, was supposed to be involved in the escape, but he never made it out of his prison cell.
The Marshals Service took the case from the FBI in 1979. Since that time, deputy U.S. marshals have investigated thousands of leads throughout the country, and traveled to foreign countries. Media venues such as the TV show America’s Most Wanted have been used to generate tips. In a 1993 interview with that program, U.S. Marshals Service Acting Director John Twomey said, “We know they were young and vigorous, that they had the physical ability to survive and that they had a well-thought-out scheme.”
There have been unusual and detailed leads to possible whereabouts of the escapees. In 2010, an unmarked grave, claimed to be that of an escapee, was exhumed but failed to offer positive identification.
The Marshals Service says the 1962 escape remains one of the best known unsolved crimes in American history. “No matter where the leads take us, or how many man hours are spent on this historic case, the Marshals Service will continue to investigate to the fullest extent possible,” said David Harlow, assistant director, U.S. Marshals Investigative Operations Division in a release.
The Marshals say they will continue to pursue the escapees until they are either arrested, positively determined to be deceased or reach the age of 99.
“The ongoing U.S. Marshals investigation of the 1962 escape from Alcatraz federal prison serves as a warning to fugitives that regardless of time, we will continue to look for you and bring you to justice,” said U.S. Marshal Don O’Keefe of the Northern District of California.
If the inmates survived the escape and remain alive today, Frank Morris would be 85 years old, Clarence Anglin would be 81 and John Anglin would be 82.