5 Ridiculous Ways Famous Fugitives Hid In Plain Sight
The most unrealistic thing about fictional villains is that they don't get arrested until the plot calls for it. In real life, the Joker might break out of Arkham, but within a few weeks, he's going to get nailed when the FBI sees he used his own credit card to buy clown paint. Can you even imagine a world in which flamboyant criminals can stroll around in the open with only minimal attempt at subterfuge? Actually, to see what such a world looks like, take a glance out your window.
A WWII-Era Serial Killer Joined The Police Force Looking For Him
Marcel Petiot was a "doctor" who made bank during World War II by selling Jews up the Nazi river. (He'd promise to help them escape to Argentina, then kill them instead.) He was, by any reasonable estimation, a giant piece of shit. But Petiot found himself up out of luck when the Nazis got their asses spanked by the Allies and France began forming a new government. One of its first tasks was rooting out collaborators and traitors, and Petiot was both.
Following Step 1 of the Notorious Fugitive Instruction Manual, Petoit grew a beard. After cultivating a real honker of a face-bush, Petiot called himself "Captain Valeri," and got a new job at the French Forces of the Interior, specializing in outing traitors to the Resistance. Valeri/Petiot had not only gotten on the fast track to his own future, but the serial killer had a hand on the rope for other traitors, be they legit or enemies who got in his way. But the real kicker came a bit later.
In a twist that would make you roll your eyes if it turned up in a movie, Valeri found himself on a very important case: hunting down a murderous traitor named Marcel Petiot. He investigated himself with the police for over seven months until someone thought he kind of resembled that Petiot guy if he, ya know, maybe sprouted some whiskers. Petiot, who had papers for a possible transfer to become a military doctor in Indochina, was arrested at a train station and stripped of his Resistance armband and status before being questioned for his crimes.
Maintaining that he was innocent and that all his 60-plus victims were wink-wink German, the man whom the press crowned with the Rob-Zombie-approved moniker "Doctor Satan" wasn't believed. How much was he not believed? Guillotine amounts.
A War Criminal Became A New Age Sex Doctor While Being Hunted By The Hague
Radovan Karadzic was one of the worst people of the 20th century, and I'm telling you, that is not an easy list to get onto. During the Bosnian War, he served as "supreme commander" of the Bosnian Serb armed forces, and oversaw the displacement of 2 million people and the deaths of 100,000. The International Court of Justice wanted him badly for this, but Karadzic came up with a foolproof plan to evade capture: He lost 60 pounds and, just like Petoit, grew a beard.
Wanted in Serbia, Karadzic moved throughout the '90s and into the early '00s, eventually landing in faraway Belgrade (the, uh, capital city of Serbia). There he set himself up with the name of a dead soldier and became "Dr. Dragan David Dabic." He was a specialist in "bioenergy medicine," which of course consisted of him holding his hands over a patient's body to realign their juju before declaring them well and getting paid. The good doctor lived across the street from an officer of Interpol, regularly hung out in a local tavern, and even got a column in Healthy Life magazine. It was a periodical that apparently catered to the whims of man-bunned mass murderers who could spout New Age nonsense.
Eventually, he moved on to sexology. Working with another doctor, they "discovered" that Karadzic's hand jive could encourage sperm motility, and so he began cupping Serbian scrotes until their sperm started swimming upstream again. Luckily, his stint as More Awful Dr. Oz ended there, as Interpol finally snatched him in 2008. Note that this was over a decade after he'd set up his practice and nearly 20 years after the Bosnian War started.
The main theory as to how Karadzic got caught involves rumors that someone in the bar he used to go to caught on and turned him in for the $5 million reward. (That would buy a lot of goats and tractor parts.) After Interpol solved the world's most idiotic Where's Waldo?, Karadzic was eventually sentenced to 40 years for all of his crimes. Denying his part in them and appealing the ruling just pissed everyone off even more, and so his sentence was upped to full life imprisonment. Ha! Sucks, bro.
An Infamous Canadian Criminal Just Assumed Another Man's Life (And Forced His Daughter To Play Along)
Canada has produced its own share of scoundrels over the years, from human coke spoon Rob Ford to that lady who shat in a Tim Hortons and flung it at a cashier. Now you can add another one to that list: Albert Johnson Walker.
Walker worked his way up from bank teller to low-key accountant, eventually going it alone and starting Walker Financial Services Incorporated. Sadly, this was the mid '80s, and he'd lose millions of his clients' dollars due to choices that ranged from the dicey to the shady. Walker soon found himself facing 18 counts of criminal fraud by 1988, becoming Interpol's second most wanted criminal. And by 1990, he'd taken his 15-year-old daughter Sheena and headed to England, ditching his wife and three other children. If you don't like where this is going, it's cool, because no one does.
Walker, who didn't have a flair for creative aliases, became "David Davis" for two years until he met Ronald Platt. Platt, a TV repairman, left the country, and Walker then took over his life while he was gone. He told people Sheena was his new wife, while her two babies (of unknown paternity, but considering her age, every option is evil and/or gross) were his children.
In a bit of bad luck for the real Platt, he ended up facing a financial downfall himself, and was forced to return home. Walker knew there couldn't be two Platts capering about, so he invited the original Platt to his boat for a spot of fishing and light murder. But despite being a master of just being fucking disgusting, Walker missed a few details. For example, Rolexes have serial numbers. Platt's body might have been waterlogged, but his watch told all. By 1997, Walker was arrested for Platt's murder and sentenced to life in prison. So his ridiculous, clumsy attempt to evade justice via possibly incestuous identity theft and murder only worked for a mere seven years. Should have grown a beard, asshole!
Abbie Hoffman Escaped Prosecution By Claiming To Be A Different, Identical-Looking Public Figure
Fans of Forrest Gump know Abbie Hoffman from his Washington Monument speech and his catchphrase "VIET-FUCKIN'-NAM!" But Hoffman was a prominent, lifelong fighter of injustice with a flair for the outrageous, once leading a 50,000-person march on the Pentagon under the claim they could raise the building with the powers of their minds, gobbling up headlines along the way. But in 1973, he was caught by an undercover cop with three pounds of blow. Honestly, that would explain his energy level in Forrest Gump.
It would have been worth a solid 15 years in jail. But in 1974, he skipped bail and -- say it with me now -- grew a beard. Then, unbeknownst to authorities, he returned to fight the good fight two years later. The FBI still had it out for him, but they didn't expect him to now go by the name Barry Freed. He moved to upstate New York, and rather than go off the grid and live a quiet fugitive's life of chopping wood and gazing solemnly at sunrises, he took on polluters of the St. Lawrence River in a proudly public way.
Battling Seaway Corp. and the Army Corps of Engineers, he'd eventually end his efforts due to regulations imposed courtesy of the newly created EPA. But all good things come to an end, and by 1980, people were just bluntly asking if he was Hoffman, and he was much more bluntly answering "Yes." With his lawyer helping him negotiate a plea deal to knock down the earlier charges, Hoffman eventually came out on top and was awarded the highest achievement in the 1980s that wasn't the Nobel Prize: a Barbara Walters 20/20 special.
Christopher Gerhart Reiter Fooled The American Elite Of Both Coasts For Decades
Most people don't know the name Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, and for good reason. Born in Germany, he made his way to America and changed his name to Christopher Gerhart Reiter. He first moved to Berlin, Connecticut, where he began to dress like Eurotrash and practiced his English by studying Thurston Howell III from the sitcom Gilligan's Island. The Jim Backus character proved to be just the inspiration he needed to change his name to Christopher Chichester and lord around as an Englishman in the 1980s.
He moved to Los Angeles, hanging out in the suburb of San Marino and wooing rich elderly widows, as one does in that city. Living as a sugar baby, he told them he was British royalty, complete with a story about being descended from a viceroy of India, all while talking with a Thurston Howell voice. Working his way through the clubs and circles, he eventually found himself close to having an MFA in film and partying with Spielberg, Lucas, Zemeckis, and a who's who of acting royalty.
Living in a guest house on the property of Ruth Sohus, Chichester first got into hot water when her son John and his wife Linda went missing. The case ended up on Unsolved Mysteries, and inspired Chichester to change his name to Christopher Crowe and pull up stakes. Heading back east in the '90s, he got himself in big with investment firms despite not having a college degree. He lost his first job when the Social Security number he used came back as belonging to one David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam killer.
Crowe moved on to another position -- all while, again, talking like the parody of a rich man from Gilligan's Fucking Island. Tipped off about authorities, Gerhart/Chichester/Crowe vanished before popping up a couple of years later as Clark Rockefeller, a long-lost heir of the famous oil dynasty. Putting his Mr. Magoo millionaire voice to good use, he got himself in with New York's elite muckety-mucks by becoming a connoisseur of modern art. He eventually married a woman named Sandra Boss after buddying up with her at a Clue-themed party. Why are rich people like this?
Unsurprisingly, their relationship went south, inspiring him to kidnap the little girl they'd had together. Authorities closed in on a wreck of a yacht belonging to one "Chip Smith" -- presumably yet another "new start" for the dude. They rescued the girl and gave her back to Boss, who insisted she was Gerhart's dupe and not his helper. In 2013, Gerhartreiter got 27 years to life for the murders of the Sohuses. He'll be up for parole in 2029, and if there's any justice in the world, he'll do his dumb accent during the hearing and get locked up until 3029.
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