Shauntay’s Elite Club


Shauntay Henderson sauntered past the TV cameras with a sly smile on her face just three days after she was arrested March 31 by Kansas City, Missouri, police. The 24-year-old had reason to gloat: She’s among a very choice group of women criminals.

An alleged gang leader, drug dealer and murder suspect, Henderson is just the eighth woman in 57 years to be added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. We at the Department of Burnt Ends wanted to know how Henderson stacked up to the other most-wanted women.

The first was Ruth Eisemann-Schier. In 1968, Eisemann-Schier and Gary Steven Krist snatched the daughter of a rich Florida developer from a motel room. The two bandits buried the heiress in a Fiberglas box, politely equipped with two plastic pipes for air. The woman survived three days underground until the two criminals got $500,000 in ransom. Eisemann-Schier evaded authorities for four months but was tripped up by a routine fingerprint check when she applied for a nursing job.

A year later, Florida native Marie Dean Arrington was added to the list after she busted out of jail in her pajamas. Arrington got the death sentence in 1968 for shooting and then crushing, with her car, the body of a legal secretary. After two years on the run, authorities caught up with her in New Orleans.

The undisputed heyday of fugitive women was 1970, when four female activists were added to the Most Wanted list. The first was Angela Davis, a Black Panther member who was connected to the murder of a judge during a courthouse hijacking to free a fellow activist. Her arrest sparked mass public outcry and even a song from the Rolling Stones. She was exonerated.

Next was Bernadine Dorhn, a high-profile member of the revolutionary Weathermen group. Dohrn made the Top Ten after being charged with mob action, riot and conspiracy in a bombing plot in Michigan. She eluded capture until 1980, when she turned herself in. She pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Rounding out 1970, a pair of women from Brandeis University joined the list. Part of a far-left revolutionary group, Katherine Power and Susan Saxe were accused of helping fire-bomb a National Guard armory and knocking off a Massachusetts bank, killing a police officer in the process. Saxe remained at large for five years; Power didn’t emerge until 1993.

The last woman to hit the Top Ten has a Kansas connection. Political radical Donna Jean Willmott allegedly purchased more than 40 pounds of explosives to spring a Puerto Rican militant from Leavenworth prison in 1985. She hit the FBI’s list in 1987. On the run for nine years, Willmott copped a plea and spent three years in prison.

So where will Henderson rank in the hierarchy of notorious female fugitives? She boasts on her MySpace page that she’s a “star on all yo local stations.” But the alleged gang leader joined a less-glamorous Top 10. When she was discovered in a North Kansas City apartment on April 1, she became only the 10th most-wanted criminal nabbed before a formal announcement that she had been added to the list.

Talk about April fools.


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