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December 23. 1987, Attempted Assassin Lynette Fromme Escapes From Federal Prison - Today In Crime History

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On this day,  December 23, in the year 1987, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who was convicted of attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford and received a life sentence, escaped from the women’s federal prison facility, in Alderson, West Virginia.

On September 5, 1975, Lynette Fromme went to Sacramento's Capitol Park, reportedly to speak with with President Gerald Ford about the plight of California redwood trees.  She was dressed in a red nun-like robe and armed with a semi-automatic pistol that she eventually openly waived and pointed in the direction of Ford.   The pistol's magazine was loaded with four rounds, but none was in the firing chamber.  Fromme was immediately restrained by Secret Service agents.  No shots were fired.  Fromme later told a reporter that she had purposely ejected the cartridge in her firearm’s chamber before leaving home that morning, and investigators later found a cartridge in her bathroom upon searching it.

After a lengthy trial in which she refused to cooperate with her own criminal defense attorneys, Fromme was convicted of the attempted assassination of the president and received a life sentence.  Fromme became the first person sentenced under a special federal statute covering assaults on U.S. presidents enacted after the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.

On the evening of December 23, 1987, prison officials noticed Fromme was missing from the Alderson Federal Prison.  A nationwide alert was immediately sent to all local, state and national law enforcement agencies.  Soon, more than 100 searchers accompanied by tracking dogs scoured the rugged mountains around the prison.  

Two days later, on December 25, 1987, Fromme was spotted by two prison employees approximately two miles south of the prison she had escaped from.  She did not attempt to run or offer resistance as they drove up to her and placed her in custody.   Fromme was convicted of the crime of escape and sentence to 15 months incarceration consecutive to her life sentence.  Lynette Fromme was granted parole in July 2008 for the attempted assassination case, but due to her 1987 prison escape, was required to served the sentence imposed in that case before being released.  Fromme was not released on parole until August 14, 2009 at sixty years of age.

Sources and more information:

National Alert Issued After Fromme Escape : Follower of Manson Sought in Hills Near West Virginia Prison, Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1987

'Squeaky' Fromme Sought After an Apparent Escape, New York Times, December 24, 1987

Manson Follower Fromme Is Recaptured : West Virginia Officials Find Her Near Prison 2 Days After Escape, Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1987

Charles Manson follower Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme released from prison after more than 30 years, New York Daily News, August 14, 2009

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Michael Buchanan is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, with more than 25 years experience defending people accused of criminal misconduct. He is a former president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read detailed professional biography here.