Love on the run
Lynette Barnett swiped her ID card at the security gate. Then she swiped it again for the man 4 feet behind her. The blond prison guard at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Mo., walked through the last check the way she did every day and strolled to the parking lot.
The control tower guard stopped the man behind Lynette.
“I don’t recognize you,” the sentry said. She made him take off his black baseball cap and hand over his ID card. She looked up the name: Chad Mathews was on the prison employee list.
“You know who this guy is?” she asked the other guard working in the booth.
No, he said. But there are 500 employees at Crossroads, and about 100 people come and go during shift changes. He didn’t know everybody.
The man had a uniform, an ID card, and a face that matched the picture, so at 3:53 p.m. on Oct. 29 he was buzzed through.
The prison’s 4:00 count came up short that day. They counted again. Inmate number 514829, convicted murderer Terry Banks, was missing.
Love is what locked Terry behind bars, and love is what set him free — at least for a seven-week chase that ended on a foggy December morning in Victoria County, Texas.
Terry’s parents met in a bowling alley in Benton Harbor, Mich. His dad was a 22-year-old doughnut baker, and his mother was an unemployed, 17-year-old high school dropout. They were young, and they were in love, but Charlie Banks was often in jail. Their son, Terry, was born, and they divorced two years later. Terry and his dad moved to Missouri to get away from the snow. Shortly after they moved, his dad landed in jail, again. Charlie Banks has a lengthy criminal history in Michigan, Missouri, Florida, and Texas that includes indecent exposure, aggravated assault, burglary with intent to rape, breaking and entering, larceny, DWI, and a 1970 fugitive charge in the Houston area. When Charlie was in jail, Terry lived with his mother. His parents remarried when he was 6, but then they divorced again, and Terry lived with his dad.
Terry and Charlie went fishing, camping, and hunting for deer, squirrel, and rabbits. Terry was a good kid, Charlie says, and a pretty good shot. “I never whipped him, hardly.” Terry collected stamps, hated vegetables, and wanted to be a professional baseball or football player. He let those dreams die when he dropped out of high school; instead of playing ball, he worked as a janitor with his dad at the Kansas City Trade Mart.
The two moved to Miami to visit family for a couple of months in 1992 and then back to Joplin, where Charlie’s brother, Robert, lived. At 19, Terry met Sheena Eastburn in a bar in nearby Rocky Comfort. He fell for her and said he’d do whatever she wanted. She wanted her drug-dealing husband dead. On Nov. 19, 1992, Terry and Matt Myers went to Tim Eastburn’s house to rob and murder him. From outside, Terry fired the first shot. Inside the house, Matt fired another bullet into Tim’s head to make sure he was dead.
“He killed for drugs, for money, and for her,” says Kurt Lipanovich, special agent in the St. Joseph, Mo., office of the FBI.
Matt turned state’s witness and got his charge lessened to second-degree murder and a 67-year sentence. Sheena and Terry were both convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.
“He was raised up right,” Charlie says. “He just fell in with the wrong girl.”
In 1997 Terry was moved to Crossroads, a $53 million maximum-security prison opened that year, the first Missouri prison with an electric fence. “The Intimidator” is 4,100 feet long, with 20 times the voltage needed to kill someone. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that inmates trying to escape are sentenced to the death penalty.
In the four years before his escape, Terry had 14 conduct violations for “possession of intoxicating substances,” “contraband,” and being “out of bounds,” says Tim Kniest, public information officer for the Missouri Department of Corrections. Terry, now 26, had a history of getting what he wanted and being where he shouldn’t be.
Love is what led Lynette Johnnie Moots Barnett to Crossroads, too. The 27-year-old met her future husband, David Barnett, when she was 16 and working as a cashier at Esry’s IGA. Dave, five years older, worked in the produce department. Lynette was a quiet girl who didn’t have much to say, remembers Irvin Esry. She drank a six-pack of Diet Pepsi a day, loved 90210, and named her Himalayan cat Putty-tat. She and Dave dated a year before their pink-and-powder-blue June wedding. Lynette’s parents had married and divorced each other twice, and both her older sisters were divorced. Lynette wanted her marriage to last.
“She wanted to live the perfect fairy-tale life,” says Lynette’s sister Lorra Johnson. “After she got married, it wasn’t that way.”
(Like Terry, Lynette did not respond to written requests for an interview, so their stories are being told in this account by those closest to them and by their captors.)
Wed the summer before her senior year, Lynette wanted to go back to school, Lorra says, but Dave was afraid she would meet someone else, and he made her quit. She stopped going to church, missed Lorra’s kids’ birthday parties, then skipped family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.
Lynette earned her GED and worked as a machine operator in a shoe factory in Hamilton, then as a nurse’s aide at a nursing home. Lynette decided to take a job at Crossroads because her husband and his stepfather both worked in the prison system. Lorra thought Lynette was too shy to be a guard; she didn’t think she was aggressive enough. Lynette is a woman who doesn’t talk to strangers unless they speak to her first. Dave worried too. He drilled Lynette that inmates would want to be her friend and would try to coerce her to give them things or let them be where they weren’t supposed to be.
Lynette told him she could take care of herself, Dave remembers, and started working at the 1,500-bed prison. Dave worked next door at the Western Missouri Correctional Center. When they were off duty, Lynette and Dave cheered for the Kansas City Chiefs, rode ATVs, and took criminal justice classes at Wentworth Junior College. A few years into their marriage, Lynette got a silver-dollar-size heart tattooed on her left breast with “Dave” on the ribbon running through it.
Lorra claims the bad times far outweighed those happy moments. She says Dave was possessive, controlling, and abusive.
She says Lynette left Dave several times, but he said he loved her, and she went back.
Lynette left for the last time after she caught Dave with another woman he worked with, Lorra says. “The little bitch he’s living with was sending her e-mails. Real immature stuff.”
Dave denies all of Lorra’s accusations. He says he never slept around. He doesn’t remember Lynette ever leaving him. If you ask him, Lynette was the controlling one. She never wanted him to be alone, he says, and she hassled him about whom he talked to and what he did.
Dave says the divorce was his idea. They argued constantly, so he figured they should just go their separate ways. He doesn’t know what went wrong or why: They just weren’t having fun anymore. “People change,” he says, sadly.
In mid-August Lynette got a purple rose tattooed over the “Dave”-emblazoned heart. With $100 in her pocket, Lynette moved in with her mother’s boyfriend. Underneath Harold Lockwood’s rundown farmhouse Lynette slept in a plain utility basement with a hot water heater, a washer/dryer, a shower stall, and a Sheetrock wall. She took her red roan horse, Zazzy; her cat; and the medicine that controlled her epilepsy. She had a dresser and a full-size bed with a peach comforter and a country-blue afghan her grandmother had crocheted. She didn’t have any pictures, Lorra says, because the place was only temporary — just until she got on her feet. Lynette stopped making the payments on her blue-green Pontiac Grand Am. Since the title was in both their names, the credit company went after Dave. He didn’t know where the car was, so he reported it stolen. (He later found out it was parked at Lorra’s house.)
Harold bought Lynette a black 1989 Ford F-150. He put the title in her maiden name, L.J. Moots. She was supposed to gradually pay him back the $1,800, just like she was supposed to pay him $500 a month in rent.
Dave says he was surprised when Lynette stopped talking to him at night-school classes. He says he was more surprised the night she and her family broke into his house and stole his appliances and his dogs. Dave tried to stop them, but when he couldn’t, he borrowed his neighbor’s camera with a date-and-time stamp on it and took pictures of them hauling away his stuff; then he gave them to his lawyer.
She filed an ex parte order against him. He filed one against her.
It was about the time she moved out of her husband’s house, if not sooner, that a romance between Lynette and Terry must have started, police say. Lynette’s happily-ever-after had fallen apart: Her husband didn’t want to be married to her anymore, and she was living in a basement with blank, white walls. She was vulnerable, and she was lonely.
Lynette and Terry have the same red hair (except hers was bleached blond). He has a tattoo of a Tasmanian devil on his left arm (and one of her three rottweilers is named Taz). Both Terry’s and Lynette’s parents had divorced and remarried and divorced each other, and the two had both dropped out of high school. They had a lot in common.
“She was infatuated,” says FBI agent Kurt Lipanovich. “If you want to say she’s in love, fine. He’s in love with his freedom.”
Lynette worked in the prison’s control tower, then the housing area, and then the food service section where Terry was assigned. Terry bragged to his roommate about their affair. Sex in prison is common, but heterosexual sex is a coup. Rumors are that Terry got Lynette pregnant and that she miscarried 10 days before their escape, according to officials close to the case. The food service section has boxes stacked floor to ceiling, leaving corridors and corners that cameras don’t cover. Plus there are areas, such as restrooms, where cameras aren’t allowed, Lipanovich says. There are plenty of spaces security cameras can’t see.
Nine days before the escape, surveillance video reveals Terry and Lynette strolling into a storage room holding hands. Walking back, they drop each other’s hands just before they hit the main room.
“She was smitten,” Lipanovich says. “Just smitten.”
On Wednesday, three days before the escape, Lynette missed a gynecologist appointment in St. Joseph. Instead, she went shopping. According to Lieutenant Don Fritz of the Cameron Police Department, Lynette took her prison-issued badge to The Printing Center and told the clerks that her boyfriend had lost his ID card and he’d get in big trouble if his boss found out. She wanted them to make a blank copy of her card. The clerks said no. At her second stop, Discount Printing, they said yes.
Lynette also charged $80 worth of men’s shirts and jeans on her J.C. Penney card. Her credit card statement shows that she stopped at a gas station, filled up, then drove 35 miles home and stopped to top off the tank.
Investigators find that suspicious. After driving 35 miles she’d still have plenty of gasoline; she wouldn’t need more fuel unless she was planning to run.
Terry followed Lynette out into the prison parking lot and climbed into her truck. It was a sunny afternoon two days before Halloween. Perfect driving weather. They drove past the cows and horses in the meadow bordering Crossroads and rode 52 miles south to Kansas City. No one was expecting Lynette home — she had told her mother and Harold she was heading 40 miles north to her grandmother’s house in Bethany. Lynette had some comp time, so she was taking a five-day weekend.
All that was missing from her room was a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and her seizure-prevention medicine.
Lynette cashed her $1,400 paycheck at Jim’s Liquor and called one of her high school girlfriends. (That’s one of the many unexplained numbers on Harold’s phone bill. The girlfriend later told FBI agents that she had refused to meet with Terry and Lynette.)
Then the two drove three and a half hours south to where Terry’s dad was sharing a single-wide trailer with his brother, Robert. Charlie, 51, had moved down there a week before.
Fritz believes that Charlie didn’t know anything about the escape. Rationalizing that Terry would try to find his father, investigators had Charlie’s previous employer call him the day it happened. Charlie sounded surprised and excited that his boy was out of jail. Investigators assume Terry and Lynette met up with Charlie after the phone call.
On Nov. 3 a federal warrant was issued for Terry’s arrest. Two weeks later, on Nov. 18, Charlie sold Lynette’s truck to the wife of a guy Robert built trailers with. The police found the truck Dec. 3. (They had flagged the title, but because Lynette had bought the truck only 15 days earlier, the paperwork hadn’t gone through the Department of Revenue.) Lynette’s name was on the title in the glove box, and buried in the backseat of the cab was a Crossroads-issued belt, radio holder, and pepper spray.
Robert Banks told FBI agents that he and his brother had had a fight and he hadn’t seen him since. He said he drove Charlie to the bus station the day after Thanksgiving, dropped him off, and didn’t ask where he was going.
That’s where police lost the trail.
Jeanne Jones met Charlie Banks about five years ago, when they were living in the same neighborhood in Edmond, Okla. (Charlie was spending time there with his father before he died. Jeanne was married and working at Arby’s.) Jeanne let her shar-pei, Odessa, run the streets at night. Charlie worked the night shift baking at Daylight Donuts. While Charlie walked home at 6 a.m., Odessa chased him up and down the street. Jeanne and Charlie got to be friends. She liked Charlie, even though she thought he was a chauvinistic pig — he was always telling her that she should be fat and in the kitchen having babies. She told him to shut up and drink another beer. He told her to go get one.
Charlie is the one who introduced her to car mechanic Paul Hoard, Jeanne says. Paul and Charlie shared a two-bedroom trailer near Jeanne’s house. Soon after they met, Jeanne left her husband to live with Paul.
About three years ago Jeanne and Paul moved to Victoria, Texas. Her sister lives there, and it was far away from Jeanne’s husband. (She doesn’t know where he is now and says she doesn’t care.)
Charlie visited Victoria about two years ago. He stayed for a while, partying and looking for work. He never found a good job in Victoria, so he packed his bags and moved to Excelsior Springs, Mo. There he got a job working in a lumberyard about an hour away from Terry.
Still, Charlie kept in touch with Paul. Jeanne and Paul didn’t have a phone, so Charlie called Paul at work at Mike’s Auto Body to catch up.
Charlie had friends in Victoria, and he knew it was an empty place that feels far away from everything. Known as the South Texas Crossroads, Victoria is two hours from Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. The town is famous for the first longhorn cattle ranches. The main roads have more barbecue joints than fast-food restaurants, and most of the downtown storefronts are still hand-painted. The phone book, white and yellow pages combined, is only a half-inch thick.
“It’s a nice, peaceful town,” Charlie says. He likes the weather.
Still, Charlie says, he called Paul and asked whether there was work in Victoria.
“Sure,” Paul said. “Come on down.”
In the beginning of December Charlie showed up at Paul and Jeanne’s pale blue trailer. He crashed on their couch while he looked for work. Jeanne says he had two “friends” with him: “John” and “Heather.” He never told Jeanne their last names, and she never thought to ask. John and Heather held hands, kissed often, and slept in the same bed. Jeanne never asked whether they were married, because she’s not married to Paul.
Jeanne is unemployed and spends most of her days sitting in a battered, pink armchair; smoking generic cigarettes; and watching TV with her half-blind Pekingese, Oreo. Having Charlie and his friends in town gave her something to do. She drove them around searching for an apartment. They picked a place that Jeanne thought was a dive (and Jeanne lives in a filthy trailer with bare plywood floorboards swarming with fleas and flies). They rented a one-bedroom in a dreary, brown apartment building. Just a few blocks over from the street of ugly, unmanicured lawns stand antebellum-style, white colonial mansions surrounded by wrought-iron gates. A few more blocks southeast are the offices of Victoria’s sheriff and chief of police.
To some people this small town of 40,000 feels like a prison: It’s a place they feel trapped. To Lynette, maybe it seemed like a big city, big enough to get lost in. She grew up in a place with more cows than people. Terry shaved off his mustache and dyed his hair black, making him look more like Johnny Depp than Johnny Rebel. Lynette dyed her crimped hair dark brown and started putting back on the 15 pounds she’d recently lost.
Charlie worked at Labor Ready, a temp agency for heavy lifters. Lynette and Terry hung out with Jeanne. They went bowling, ate pizza, and drank cans of Milwaukee’s Best. Other days they sat around rolling fresh cigarettes from stubbed-out butts, listening to Jeff Foxworthy, Tom Petty, and Cheap Trick tapes. Life was an episode of Roseanne.
Word on the street in Hamilton, Lynette’s hometown, was that she had been forced into aiding Terry. People figured he must have threatened to have his friends on the outside whack her if she didn’t help him.
“It just shocked the hell out of everybody around here when she pulled this trick,” says Harold Lockwood, 61, her former landlord.
Lynette’s eldest sister, Lonna Nelson, hasn’t been able to work since the day Lynette disappeared. She lost her job packing Guy’s Potato Chips in Liberty. She was certain that Lynette was kidnapped — and that whoever stole Lynette could come back and grab her.
“She was just so nervous and paranoid, she couldn’t drive up and down the road to work,” Harold says. “She was afraid everybody was following her. The mother was the same way — she thought every car that drove up to the house was somebody watching her, waiting to shoot her. I had to change all the deadbolts.”
The two women spent their days in Harold’s house, praying and worrying about Lynette. Scared that they were next, they felt as though they were living in a horror movie, waiting to die.
In complete disbelief and denial that Lynette was capable of her alleged crime, Lynette’s family concocted conspiracy theories. They told Lipanovich that Dave had engineered the escape to frame Lynette. That way he could “make her look bad, and he could get a divorce and get the property,” Lipanovich remembers.
That theory was quickly disproved.
“They were just trying to relocate the blame,” Dave says.
Her mother, Faye Moots, told authorities that the weekend of the disappearance, Lynette had planned to interview for a job in Kansas City. No one had heard of that.
Lynette absolutely didn’t do this on her own, her sisters insist. She was kidnapped.
“Running off and living on the road wouldn’t have been Lynette’s style,” Lorra says.
Lynette was a woman who liked a set routine and wore three pairs of shoes a day — if she were planning to run, she wouldn’t have left a brand-new pair or Reeboks in a box under her bed, Lorra says. Not to mention the newly reset diamond earrings Lynette had waiting at the jewelry store. Plus she’d only just started her Christmas shopping (and Lynette liked to give a lot of presents), and she’d bought a bag of Hershey’s Miniatures to give out Halloween night. But more important, there was her divorce court date scheduled in mid-November.
“She wanted a divorce bad enough, I don’t believe she would’ve split,” Lorra says.
Lorra told a Kansas City Star reporter that Terry was good-looking and Lynette was lonesome, so maybe they did fall in love. Now she has changed her mind.
“She wasn’t the cheating kind,” Lorra says. “There’s plenty of sleazebag guards that work out there. Lots of them got into trouble screwing around (with inmates). Lynette was above that. She thought it was disgusting. You think of what men do with each other in prison — would you really want a man from there? I wouldn’t want any of them touching me.”
Lorra spent nights dreaming of her sister dying. She called a psychic friend, who told her Lynette was fine. She wanted to believe her. But police said they expected Lynette to be long dead.
“We kept hoping we’d find her alive,” Lorra says.
On Dec. 11 Terry and Lynette were on America’s Most Wanted. Lorra taped it. Down in Victoria, the faces looked familiar.
“That looks like Charlie’s daughter,” said the guy who lives in the trailer three down from Paul and Jeanne. Most of the neighbors were gathered around watching TV and drinking beer. They laughed it off, remembers neighbor Amy Davis, 34. It was just another joke.
But five miles away in Victoria a man wasn’t laughing. After he watched the show the faces stuck in his mind. A few days later he looked Terry and Lynette up on America’s Most Wanted‘s Web site. Terry’s profile describes the Roman numeral “IV” on his left hand (possibly a prison gang symbol) and the peace signs tattooed across Terry’s fingers, and it says that Terry’s entire right hand is scarred from a burn (he fell into a campfire). Lynette’s profile describes the rose tattoo, says that her blue contacts tint her green eyes, and adds a special alert to medical professionals that she might be running out of her epilepsy medicine. The tipster knew it was them. He picked up the phone and dialed 1-800-CRIME-TV.
He said he thought he had met Terry and Lynette at a party with a scruffy, older guy named Charlie. Mentioning Charlie is what gave the source credibility — the America’s Most Wanted episode hadn’t said anything about him.
The tipster gave the address where he had met them, but he didn’t want to give his name. And the police won’t provide it either.
America’s Most Wanted contacted Fritz, of the Cameron Police Department, on Thursday around 2 p.m. Fritz called Lipanovich. It was Dec. 16, Lipanovich’s 40th birthday. He got on the phone to the FBI in Victoria and told them to catch the fugitives for his birthday present.
FBI agents and Victoria police officers went to the house where the tipster had met the three fugitives. But they didn’t live there. Investigators found their apartment, but Terry and Lynette were gone.
It was cold in Victoria, and their apartment didn’t have any heat. Two days before, Charlie had called Paul at work and asked if they could crash in his camper, Jeanne remembers. The old Dodge needed brake and carburetor work, but it had heat.
“If someone’s cold, I’ll give ’em a blanket,” Jeanne says. “That’s just how I was raised.” She’s got five stray cats that hang around her trailer because they know she’ll feed them.
Friday morning, FBI officers showed up in Captain Michael Buchanek’s office. A confidential source had told them Terry and Lynette were staying with Paul and Jeanne — that was in the county, the sheriff’s domain. Sheriff Michael Ratcliff was in San Antonio at his brother’s graduation from the police academy. Director of the Operations Division of the sheriff’s office, Buchanek gave them a detective and went back to his regular duties. He had seen escapees and murderers before; he didn’t think it was anything unusual. Neither did the chief of police.
“It was pretty routine,” says Timothy Braaten. “We’re always looking for people wanted on warrants.”
Just before lunch, investigators drove down Guadalupe Road. Passing mesquite, huisache, and hackberry trees tangled in wild grape vines, investigators stopped across from Southwinds Mobile Home Village. FBI agents and officers from the Victoria Police Department, the sheriff’s office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety set up camp over a small hill just beyond the cattle guard. (One of the sheriff’s deputies conveniently lived in the brick house up the hill, so they made it their base.)
They got out their binoculars and discreetly watched. Paul and Jeanne lived in a battered blue trailer with scalloped Christmas lights hanging from the roof and snowmen stenciled on the windows. Beside the trailer was a broken-down Dodge motor home with stripes the color of mustard and hot fudge.
The investigators watched and waited.
On Friday afternoon Terry and Lynette walked with Jeanne and Oreo to the park. They sat around the pond in peaceful silence — none of them are big talkers.
When Paul and Charlie got home, they pulled out a case of Busch and watched an action movie on their 30-inch TV, the way they spent most Friday nights. Partying to them meant drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and watching TV. If the weather was nice, they thought they might go fishing Saturday, maybe catch some catfish.
They filled the kitchen sink with beer cans, and around 2 a.m., they went to bed.
After night fell, officers moved into the 15-acre plowed-up cornfield. Standing in black dirt surrounded by an electric fence, they spotted Terry walking back and forth to the trailer. They thought they saw Lynette, but they weren’t sure. It was a cold, misty night on a road without streetlights. They needed daylight to be certain — and to be safe: They had heard Terry and Lynette had a handgun.
Recruiting reinforcements was difficult. There were two birthday parties that night, and others were out drinking their paychecks — police officers can’t go on duty drunk.
Buchanek was watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie with his 13-year-old son, Mike. Recently divorced, Buchanek doesn’t get to see his boys much. He wasn’t excited when his beeper went off. His ex-wife was out of town, so he picked up his 10-year-old at a birthday party and then scrambled to find someone to watch the boys. Then he bought several large cups of coffee, Diet Pepsi, and pretzels and headed out to join the force.
With the officers they had, they spent the night planning. They made maps of the trailer park, diagramming Terry and Lynette’s possible escape routes, trying to figure out how to block them. They closed off the highway on either side of Guadalupe Road.
The officers tried to troubleshoot from every angle. They plotted how to approach the trailer without being noticed by the occupants or by neighbors who might warn the fugitives. In addition to capturing the offenders, they also had to worry about protecting innocent people from getting caught in the crossfire.
From dusk until dawn an unmarked patrol car was like a general’s wartime tent.
“It is war,” says Buchanek, a former army sergeant. “Only we have to play nice.”
They wanted to bring in a helicopter to follow the fugitives if they drove off, but it was too foggy for air support. Temperatures were in the 40s, and the wind whipped through the black fatigue jacket and body armor Buchanek was wearing.
At dawn 25 officers in black, bulletproof helmets and shatter-resistant vests surrounded the trailer. They climbed into scattered trees and crawled beneath the flanking trailers. If the fugitives wouldn’t surrender peacefully, the tear gas was ready.
Jeanne was sleeping off her hangover when she heard shouting. You hear shouting a lot living in trailer parks, so she tried to cover her ears and ignore it. Then she realized someone was calling her name. Paul struggled out of the bed beside her; wearing only blue bikini briefs, he stumbled outside with his hands up.
Jeanne pulled a pair of Levi’s over her panties and followed him outside. Charlie, who had been passed out on the couch, was close behind. They lay down in the gravel-strewn sand and were handcuffed, shackled, and taken to sit in a van. Jeanne asked an officer what was going on, but she was so scared she couldn’t understand what he said. The only time she had been in trouble before was when she got two days’ suspension in high school for smoking cigarettes.
The trailer’s white Christmas lights glowed in the early-morning light. The world looked gray.
Terry and Lynette stayed in the motor home. Maybe they believed if they were really quiet the officers would think they weren’t there. But the closed curtains moved.
“You, in the RV,” FBI agent Chris Cole cried on the bullhorn. “Move away from the curtain.”
Cole called “Banks and Barnett” 13 times.
“It’s time to come out — it’s over,” Cole said at 7:08 a.m. “We know you’re in there.”
Officers shone their flashlights on the hot-pink curtains. Cole told the fugitives to exit through the driver’s-side door.
“It’s time to come out,” Cole repeated. “NOW.”
There was no response. Maybe they couldn’t hear him. If they heard his voice, Cole said, they should stick a hand out by the front curtain.
“Okay, we see the hand,” Cole said, switching to a less patient, more commanding tone. “It’s time to come out now. Nobody needs to get hurt.”
The curtains stayed still.
“Let’s go!” Cole yelled, like a high school football coach. He’d been awake 26 hours. “It’s time to come out now — it’s time to give it up.”
The longer Terry and Lynette stayed inside, the more the officers worried. Terry didn’t have anything left to lose; they didn’t know whether he was going to kill her and himself or whether he was preparing to try to take out the officers. The man had murdered before, Buchanek says. Chances were he would again.
From behind the door Terry yelled to the officers that he wanted a moment alone with Lynette.
No, Cole said, and repeated the order to surrender.
“We’re waiting,” Cole said. “Come out NOW.”
At 7:20 a.m. Terry yelled that they would come out but to give them a few minutes. He wanted to talk to Lynette.
Cole shouted back that he’d have plenty of time to talk to her later.
“It’s time, Terry,” Cole said.
After three orders, Terry and Lynette pulled the windshield curtain back.
“Come on out, nice and slow,” Cole said. “One at a time.”
Wearing a red flannel shirt and jeans, Lynette opened the driver’s-side door. Her dark brown hair almost hit her shoulders. Cole told her to drop the hairbrush she was holding, put her hands in the air, and slowly back toward the sound of his voice. She lay down on her stomach and was cuffed and shackled.
She didn’t look relieved and happy like a freed hostage would: She looked worried.
Maybe, like the officers, she was worried that Terry was going to kill himself. The officers had wanted him to come out first — he was more dangerous — but he had sent her. Maybe he did love Lynette; maybe he wanted her to be safe. His choices were to die or to go back to prison for life with even less chance of parole. But a few minutes later, at 7:27 a.m., Terry appeared wearing a denim jacket and jeans, his empty hands in the air.
“Put your hands way up, Terry,” Cole ordered. “Way, way up.”
He was America’s Most Wanted capture number 595.
Lynette called her mother that night from the Victoria County Jail. She wanted to know where Terry was and how he was doing. Harold remembers Faye telling him after she got off the phone that Lynette had said that if it hadn’t been for that guy ratting them out, no one would have ever caught them. Faye refused to be interviewed.
Lynette called her sister Lorra that night too. She said Terry hadn’t hurt her, but Lorra doubts that.
An officer asked the fugitives whether they were headed to Mexico. They said it hadn’t crossed their minds. Other than that, the three refused to be interviewed by the police without counsel.
Along with the sinkful of beer cans, police found Lynette’s journal. It’s a three-by-five-inch notebook covered in blue and burgundy flowers; she probably bought it at the Wal-Mart down the street from Crossroads, Fritz says. She kept notes logging their journey. Fritz won’t read an excerpt, but he maintains it doesn’t say anything about Lynette’s being held hostage, hoping to be rescued.
Authorities have statements from the copy clerks who made the blank ID and from a guard who saw Lynette laminating the fake ID at the office. Investigators also studied surveillance videotapes and saw that Lynette looked “thicker” when she walked in one day. They figure she must have worn an old uniform in (from before she lost weight) on top of her other uniform and sneaked it to Terry. Then he probably changed behind those floor-to-ceiling boxes.
Video shows that Lynette wore the black ball cap with the Department of Corrections emblem into the prison and that Terry wore it out, Fritz says.
Investigators have more videotape that they can’t talk about. It’s evidence, Fritz says, and the trial hasn’t started. Maybe it shows Lynette and Terry doing more than holding hands.
Paul and Jeanne say they were just trying to help out a friend. They knew Charlie was an ex-con, and they knew he had a boy in prison somewhere — but this guy “John” didn’t look at all like Charlie. He was bigger — Terry is 6 feet tall, and Charlie’s only 5-foot-5. Maybe he looks like his mother, Jeanne says now. John was a nice guy. He never said anything nasty or out of line, like Charlie did.
Paul and Jeanne spent five days in jail. Jeanne’s sister didn’t have the money to bail them out, so Paul’s dad sent $2,000 from Colorado to pay the $10,000 bond each of them had. Jail wasn’t as bad as Jeanne thought it would be — they have television. She says the only time she’d ever been to a prison was to visit a few friends.
Her friend Charlie (whom she is no longer fond of) is still stuck behind bars in the Victoria County Jail with bail set at $20,000. The sheriff refused repeated requests to let him be interviewed. In a letter on yellow legal-pad paper, Charlie wrote that his court-appointed attorney said not to talk to the press. “I’m sure we can work around this,” he wrote. The next day he called the Houston Press collect. He had a friend call for him to ask whether the Press could provide him with better legal counsel. The answer was no. Charlie talked anyway.
In a telephone interview, Charlie’s version of the story diverges from Jeanne’s on only one point: that of blame. Both say that they don’t deserve the third-degree felony charge for harboring a fugitive. Jeanne says Terry and Lynette were just crashing at her house, but they lived with Charlie. Charlie says they lived in the camper and he lived in the one-bedroom apartment by himself. He says that he traveled to Victoria by himself, stayed with Paul and Jeanne, and as soon as Terry and Lynette showed up he moved out.
“I didn’t want no trouble,” Charlie says. “I didn’t do nothing. I’m sticking to that.”
He says he has no idea how Terry got to Victoria. He says they were never in Joplin.
But he sold Lynette’s truck. So he must have seen them.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Charlie says.
Regardless of how Terry got to Texas, Charlie did spend time with his boy, and he met Lynette. Terry told Charlie that Lynette was different. “I really love this girl,” Charlie remembers him saying.
In Charlie’s version, on the Friday of the stakeout, Paul picked him up from work promising that Jeanne was going to cook dinner. Jeanne is a good cook, so he went. She didn’t cook anything, he was hungry, and the next morning he was arrested.
Jeanne and Paul haven’t visited Charlie in jail or tried to scrounge up bail money. Their friendship is officially over, Jeanne says. Paul and Jeanne trusted Charlie, and he brought felons (and America’s Most Wanted) to their house. It’s a cold February afternoon, just as dreary as the December day of the arrest. Paul opens the front door wearing what looks like a pair of women’s pajamas. Jeanne’s inside. The television, of course, is on.
“I tried to help out a friend of mine, Charlie, and he fucked me,” Paul says. “A friend of mine told me he needed a place to stay — my life is fucked now. They were fucking criminals — I didn’t know shit.”
(Police chief Braaten says, “He better say that.” Ignorance is what will keep Paul out of jail.)
Jeanne’s life now mirrors that of Lynette’s mother and sisters at their most paranoid, worried moments. Jeanne can’t sleep. She jumps when anyone knocks on the door and tells them to come back when Paul’s around: She wants Paul to do the talking.
Reporters from the Associated Press and local papers have talked to everyone in the mobile home village. Jeanne knows the neighbors are talking about her, if not to her. All the people she used to drink beer, eat barbecue, and shoot firecrackers with now ignore her. They don’t even wave or say hello, Jeanne says. “They treat us like lepers,” she says.
On her coffee table is a copy of William Brashler’s The Chosen Prey; she feels as if she’s the title character. Every time she hears car wheels on the gravel road she swears it’s the police coming to get her. “Like they say, ‘I was screwed without no Vaseline,'” she says, “or a kiss.”
Shackled at the wrists and ankles, wearing gray pants and a white shirt like in Cool Hand Luke, Terry had his first hearing before a DeKalb County, Mo., circuit judge Feb. 23. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Charged with escape from confinement, he plans to plead not guilty.
Guilty or innocent, there’s no way to punish Terry, because he’s already serving a life sentence. A Class B felony charge would add five to 15 years on top of forever. The trial’s outcome will probably just decide which prison Terry will be housed in.
Right now he’s in the Potosi Correctional Center, 70 miles south of St. Louis. Public defender David Miller is trying to get him moved to a prison where they can meet more privately. Surrounded by guards, he doesn’t think Terry was able to tell him the whole story. His next court date is April 10 at 9 a.m.
Even though the outcome will have little effect, prosecuting Terry is a policy issue, says Bart Spear, DeKalb County’s prosecuting attorney.
“If I never prosecuted somebody who escaped from prison, I might be sending the wrong message,” Spear says. “You can’t have people escaping from prison. That’s not a good thing.”
After Lynette was found, Harold Lockwood broke up with her mother. He decided the story that officers told made more sense than the family’s paranoia. “I kicked the whole family out,” he says. “I told them to take everything that wasn’t mine and leave.”
Lorra says all of Lynette’s stuff, her horse, and her dogs are at her father’s house in Kidder, Mo. But when Dave called his father-in-law, he was told the dogs had been given away (even though Dave says they were his dogs that a high school friend gave to him). Dave is mad. He wants his dogs back, but that will have to wait.
Lynette has been suspended without pay from Crossroads. She is being held in the Harrison County Jail in Bethany, with bail set at $100,000 cash. No one in her family could afford one-fourth of that.
“She deserves to be in jail,” Lipanovich says. “She’s incredibly stupid. She did one of the stupidest things in history.”
Lipanovich spoke at his 14-year-old daughter’s middle school career day and used Lynette as an example of a woman who made “bad life choices.”
Lynette’s divorce attorney took her case but refuses to say anything besides the fact that she’s innocent and there’s a “good possibility” that Lynette was kidnapped. The attorney said Lynette would probably be willing to be interviewed, but then the attorney stopped returning phone calls.
Like Terry, Lynette waived her right to a preliminary hearing at her first court date, March 1. Her lawyer asked for a reduction of the $100,000 bail. “I denied it,” says Judge Warren L. McElwin, associate circuit judge of DeKalb County. The purpose of a bond is to ensure appearance in court, McElwin says, and because Lynette was caught down in Texas, he doesn’t trust her to stay in Missouri. So he’s keeping her in jail.
When asked what he thought of the case, the judge just laughed.
Lynette is charged with a Class D felony and faces two to five years in prison, one year in jail, and a $5,000 fine. Missouri state Rep. Randall Relford introduced a bill into the House when the January session started to change Lynette’s alleged crime to a Class B felony with a five- to 15-year term that can be extended to 30 years. He thinks letting a convicted murderer loose demands a greater punishment.
“At least it ought to be the same as the person who had escaped,” Relford says.
Lynette’s sisters still insist that she is absolutely innocent. They think the surveillance videotape was tampered with. They blame the prison security, not Lynette.
“What all the newspapers are saying is pretty much false,” Lorra says. “They’re making her out to be the bad guy here when she’s the victim. This couldn’t have happened if the people in the control tower were doing their job. They’re the ones that let the convicted murderer out. If the people in the control tower had been doing their job, Terry Banks would never have walked out. That’s the part they’re not telling. It’s pretty easy to shove it all off on Lynette. They’ve convicted her in the newspapers and TV, and they haven’t even got a tenth of the story.”
Lorra doesn’t offer much more, though. She says that the day of the breakout was an ordinary day for Lynette. “She went to work, went home,” Lorra says. “What (happened) after that, I’m not going to say at this point. I think that’s gonna come out soon enough — it’s not like they say.”
She won’t say whether Lynette actually told her that or whether, she just decided it herself. On Friday afternoons Lorra brings Lynette cigarettes, Cheetos, Diet Pepsi, Pringles, and pieces of paper to draw on. Lynette likes to sketch farm animals, like the ones on the ranch where she was raised.
Lynette’s mother and sisters get 10- to 20-minute visits with her in the sheriff’s office. Her husband hasn’t stopped by yet.
Legally Lynette and Dave are still married. Having watched the videotapes, Dave now believes that Terry Banks is what went wrong with their marriage. Tired of talking to reporters (like Lynette, he doesn’t like talking to strangers), he has decided to write a book. Maybe then people will leave him alone, he says.
Dave says he has a lot to say to Lynette, but he hasn’t spoken to her since before she ran off. As an officer at the Western Missouri Correctional Center, he’s not allowed to have personal interaction with offenders. His wife may have broken that rule, but he won’t.
This article first appeared in the Houston Press.
E-mail Wendy Grossman at email@example.com.