5 Roman Polanski Stays Out of the Picture
Managing to be both a wanted criminal and an active, celebrated film director might be Polanski’s most lasting “work” of all. We know just where he is (Switzerland) and we know just what he did (statutory rape – he plead guilty in 1977) and yet we can’t bring him to justice because of pesky international sovereignty and law. He would be arrested immediately if he returned to America, yet while in Switzerland, he is as free as the mountain breeze.
4 Robert Leon Davis, The Prodigal Corrupt Cop
Officer Davis served as a New Orleans police officer for several years before being revealed to be deeply corrupt; in fact, he was an outright criminal who just happened to be a cop. Facing serious jail time, Davis skipped bail and hightailed it to Canada, where he hid out in the forest for an amazing 22 years. His conscience finally did what Johnny Law never could, and bid Davis to return to America to face the music. After a full confession and ready to do his time, Davis was amazingly granted a reprieve and never served a single day in prison!
3 Dr. Death Defies Justice
Sometimes we root for fugitives, romanticizing their dashing exploits and hoping they’re fat and happy on some desert isle. When the fugitive in question is a Nazi asshole who performed lurid, torturous “experiments” on hapless concentration camp prisoners, we want quite the opposite. Unfortunately for the good of mankind, Aribert Heim was an SS officer and “doctor” whose horrid crimes were unknown for many years after the war ended. He worked as a doctor for nearly two decades before learning of an international warrant out for his arrest and slipping off the radar in the early ‘60s. He may have died in Egypt in 1992, but we’ll never be sure. And even though Heim is all but certainly dead now, having been born in 1914, it would have been nice if that had come at the hands of the law.
2 George Wright: Safe in … Portugal?
George Wright was a robber, a thug, and, eventually, a murderer. For these crimes he was, of course, sent to prison. This was in the 1960s. After escaping from jail in 1970, he went underground for two years, and then hijacked a plane in Detroit, demanding to be flown to Algiers of all places. He ended up in Portugal and it seemed like he would be brought home to face the music, but due to his Portuguese citizenship status, that government chose not to extradite this accomplished, if despicable, criminal.
1 D.B. Cooper Leaps into Thin Air
In perhaps the most famous case of robbery/hijacking, and certainly one of the most dramatic thefts of the modern era, a man hijacked a jetliner on November 24, 1971, and then parachuted from the plane, never to be seen again. The thief bought his ticket under the pseudonym “Dan Cooper” but has subsequently come to be called D.B. Cooper. Cooper boarded the Boeing 727 in Portland for what should have been a quick, easy flight to Seattle. Except that D.B. had a bomb in a briefcase, a note requesting $200,000 and a parachute in his hand. After a forced landing and payment of the ransom, D.B. ordered the plane back into the air, and leapt from it, never to be seen again. Chances are good that he died during his daring jump, but chances are better that we’ll never know for sure.