B1 Intermediate 14 Folder Collection
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Nobody ever thought that someone could escape Mecklenburg Correctional Center's Death
Row, a place that housed what the state of Virginia called its “worst of the worst.”
The 20 million dollar prison was said to be escape proof, a virtual fortress, replete
with all the latest security equipment.
But one day in 1984, six inmates would get out, and how they would do it is beyond belief.
These men were vicious killers, maniacs of the highest degree.
The leaders of this escape ring were the Briley Brothers, men whose crimes traumatized America.
Before we tell you how a group of inarguably, absolutely terrifying human beings got out
of a prison that was thought to be escape proof, you need to know just how dangerous
the ringleaders of that escape were.
These were the three Briley brothers: Linwood, James and Anthony.
Growing up in their neighborhood in Virginia's capital, Richmond, these young guys seemed
to most people like just normal kids...They were far from normal, though, something insidious
ran through the veins of these children.
It's alleged they tortured some of the exotic pets they kept, which included snakes and
tarantulas, but that's nothing compared to what the eldest son, Linwood, did in 1971.
One day he was sitting in his second floor bedroom and he pointed a rifle at an elderly
He shot that rifle, and the woman died.
Linwood was eventually arrested for the crime, and his bitterly cold response to the wrongdoing
was, “I heard she had heart problems, she would have died soon anyway.”
Now you have an idea of what kind of people we are talking about, but things got much
worse as the children grew into their twenties.
After Linwood got out of reform school and his brother James was released from juvenile
jail for the crime of shooting at a police officer, the three brothers were back together
The year was 1979, and the brothers would begin a crime spree that rocked America.
They had one accomplice, a younger man named Duncan Meekins.
Their first point of call on this crime spree was a house where a couple lived.
The date was March 12th.
They robbed the house and took all the valuables they could carry away, and then left the couple
tied up.
Before they exited, they doused the whole place with gasoline, threw a match on that
gasoline, and left the victims to burn.
Fortunately, the couple managed to untangle themselves before they went up in flames with
the house.
A couple of weeks later, the gang robbed and murdered a 20-year food-vending serviceman.
Ten days after that, they shot and killed a man over a drug dispute.
Just over a week later the gang broke into the home of a 76-year woman.
They sexually assaulted her, robbed her, and left her to die after shooting her in the
She survived that, but died some weeks later after falling into a coma.
It's now July, and the gang pick on a local 17-year kid.
They beat him up, and finish him off by dropping a cinder block on his head.
In September, they shoot and kill a DJ, and in the same month they rob a 62-year old nurse.
They take her money and then end her life with blows to the skull from a baseball bat.
If you think it can't get worse than this, think again.
This gang was evil, there's no doubt about it.
In October, they break into the house of a 75-year old almost-blind woman and her 56
year old boarder.
They beat the woman to death with a pipe and kill the man using a selection of tools including,
scissors, a baseball bat, a knife… and even a fork.
A week later, they shoot another man to death after a fight breaks out.
Just five days later, the gang breaks into the house of a young couple.
They sexually assault the pregnant woman, and then fatally shoot her and her five year
old son.
The man, a one time friend of the brothers, is also fatally shot.
Three days later and the three brothers and their accomplice were all arrested.
Meekins was offered a plea agreement if he testified against the brothers, and he accepted
that and got a life sentence plus 80 years.
A life sentence without chance of parole was given to Anthony, the youngest of the brothers,
since Meekins testified that he had had the least involvement in the monstrous crimes.
It's believed he never actually killed a person, or at least that couldn't be proven.
Linwood and James were sentenced to death.
The judge at the time said it was the vilest rampage of violence he'd seen in his entire
30-year career.
We actually spared you some of the gorier details, but if you search, you shall find.
After hearing what those young men did, you can only imagine how the public would have
felt if they escaped prison.
That's exactly what they did on May 31, 1984, and we doubt you could find a crazier
prison escape story.
The ringleaders of the escape were the two brothers, but six men eventually made it outside
the prison walls.
It would become the largest death row escape in history.
The brothers were only separated by one cell on death row, and during their time there,
they both went looking for like-minded criminals.
i.e. ones that wanted to escape.
That's something that's since been criticized...the fact that the prisoners were given quite a
lot of time to congregate in the day room.
There the brothers and their four accomplices started to hatch their escape plan.
Some other prisoners, not under the spell of the bothers' power, actually snitched
on them, telling guards that they were planning an escape.
They said take those guys away, because if their escape attempt fails, they might become
one of their victims.
Such was the fear that those brothers imposed on others.
So, how did they actually get out?
Well, those brothers observed every small detail of what the guards did.
After years of watching them, they knew their weaknesses and strengths.
They even worked out whose uniforms would fit them best for when they would escape.
The men spent months creating homemade knives, hiding them where officers couldn't find
Well, it was later said that the contraband should have been found, so maybe the searches
weren't all that rigorous.
We'd also later find out that the brother's had been bribing some officers, and that had
been going on for years.
Ok, so the brothers and co.
knew about the guards' habits and how they worked, but they also knew that they could
get the control room door unlocked if they wanted to pass an item to another prisoner.
If you've managed to manipulate an officer and get him to like you, perhaps he'll allow
you to pass an item to another prisoner.
They made sure to get on the good side of some officers.
They knew which ones were lenient, weak, and this took years of planning.
They also knew where a man could hide out of the sight of cameras, or how they could
create headcount confusion by not returning to their cells fast enough after recreation.
On May 31, 1984, the officers should have been suspicious of one thing, and that was
the fact a few men looked clean shaven and their hair was neatly combed.
Why did the men do this?
The answer is because they were going to pretend to be officers.
They had to look the part.
At around 8pm most men were leaving the yard, but the escapees were hatching their plan.
One man went into a bathroom next to the control room and locked the door.
He knew exactly when to do this, being aware of the officers' routines.
A nurse would have found this strange, since she used that bathroom every night, although
she'd earlier been told by guards that the bathroom was out of order.
That wasn't true.
One of the brothers had made that up.
To make it worse, the brothers made sure a bit of commotion happened during the return
to cells so the guards didn't have a correct head count.
What happened next is James Briley said he needed to give something to another prisoner,
and could the guard open the door to the control room.
When he did that, the man hidden in the bathroom shot out and subdued the guard.
He then used the control panel to unlock all the cell doors.
The prisoners now had the guards under their control.
They stripped them naked and put duct tape over their mouths.
They were then locked into cells.
When other guards arrived, they were subdued by inmates now wearing guards' uniforms.
It was a hellish scene, with some prisoners making sure one particular officer's life
was saved after the brothers wanted to douse him in rubbing alcohol and set him on fire.
Some prisoners also protected the nurse.
With a knife at his throat, the lieutenant was forced to radio through to the guard tower
and say, “We have a situation here.”
He said a bomb had been found in the pod and they needed to get it out of the prison.
The rest of the prison at this time had no idea this was all going down.
The six men then found a closet where they knew riot gear was kept.
They put on helmets and wrapped gas masks around their heads.
The guys even used the riot shields to make it all look very convincing.
But to get out of the main building there was another guard they needed to get by.
The head guard whose throat had a knife to it called her and told her she had a call
to answer.
He told her he would send another guard up to replace her.
Before she left her station, she saw a guard approaching, but she was somewhat confused
since she'd never seen this man before.
Maybe he was new?
But as soon as he got close to her he got her down on the floor and tied her up.
What happened next sounds quite unbelievable.
Killers dressed as guards walked through their building carrying a stretcher.
They seemed hurried, seeing as they were supposedly carrying a bomb.
It was actually a TV covered with a blanket.
To make the situation seem even more desperate, one of the men was shooting a fire extinguisher
at the covered box, which was supposed to look like he was cooling it down.
The men then took the stretcher and loaded it into the van.
It was nighttime, and with their faces being partly covered with those riot helmets, no
one guessed they weren't guards.
The guys couldn't just drive out, though, because what happened at that prison was any
vehicle leaving would have to leave through two doors.
The vehicle only got through the second door after an inspection.
But in this case, those fake guards said c'mon, this is a bomb situation we have here, we
need to get out quickly.
In violation of prison rules, the guard opened both doors at once.
Close to 11 pm that prison van, along with six murderers and a TV set, drove off into
the countryside in the direction of North Carolina.
The convicts had stolen $758 and had civilian clothes that they had stolen.
They also had a bunch of rolled ganja joints.
What happened next was a bunch of slow communications between those who knew about the escape and
those who needed to know.
Some police departments didn't get the call until hours after the escape.
In the meantime, those criminals were getting very far away from the prison.
These weren't ordinary men by any means, because as you've heard today, they had
caused unbelievable harm to people.
They were vicious, and it was thought that they might begin another killing rampage.
The former sheriff of Richmond later said, “I knew their determination to seek revenge.
You never forget the smell of death and the smell of blood from what they did.”
No one had actually been hurt in the escape, although the other inmates were largely responsible
for keeping people safe.
But would they seek revenge?
The authorities thought they would, so anyone involved with the incarceration of the brothers
was given police protection.
That included judges, witnesses, the families of those who the brothers had killed, and
even the family and relatives of the accomplice named Meekins.
Two of the escapees were quickly picked up trying to cross into North Carolina, but that
still left four men on the run.
100s of law enforcement officers around Virginia and North Carolina went out looking for the
men, while some of the public armed themselves in case they'd come into contact with the
People were scared out of their wits, not knowing if their residence would be broken
One guy at the time told a reporter that he was taking no risks, and armed with a gun
he told that reporter, “I'm going to blow the man's head off and then ask questions.”
You get the picture; those bothers were feared like the devil himself.
One of the escapees split from the brothers and he didn't get very far.
Eight days after the escape he was arrested by a local cop after he'd tried to rob a
store armed with a knife.
The cops soon got another man, which only left the brothers at large.
Wiretaps were put on the brothers' relatives, and one call led back to a garage located
in North Philadelphia.
Just hours after that call was made, federal agents were all over the building, and there
they found the two brothers at the side of the building barbecuing chicken over a fire.
Their escape had lasted 19 days.
The garage owner, who had hired these two guys that were now calling themselves Slim
and Lucky, had no idea he'd hired maniacal killers.
Linwood was executed in the electric chair on October 12, 1984.
James was executed the same way on April 18, 1985.
Both maintained that they were innocent of the crimes they had been convicted of.
When Linwood was asked if he had any last words, he just said that he was innocent.
When James was asked, he said, “Are you happy?”
Anthony Briley is still in prison to this day.
These men were actually known as “spree killers”, not serial killers.
If you want to see another grizzly show about a spree killer, have a look at, “What Drove
The Man Who Killed Versace.”
If that's not to your liking, have a look at this….
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Death Row Inmates Escape Before Execution

14 Folder Collection
Summer published on August 2, 2020
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