8 – Ray Briefly Escaped Prison in 1977
When it became clear that Ray’s bizarre Raoul story had been exposed for the crock of crap that it was, he became desperate. The chances of him getting a new trial were virtually nil, and he seemed destined to die in prison. Worse still, he was in the maximum security Brushy Mountain State prison. At that time, no one had ever launched a successful escape attempt from the jail. However, Ray had managed a daring prison escape once and was determined to do it again. On June 10, 1977, he saw his chance to make history as he, along with six fellow inmates, broke out of prison.
It was a detailed plot that had been some time in the making. The escape occurred when two prisoners staged a fight to distract the guards. Seven inmates scaled the prison’s 14-foot wall using a ladder made from plumbing materials. One of the escapees, David Powell, didn’t get the chance to taste liberty because he was shot by a guard after he had made it beyond the prison walls. Powell reportedly said: “Ray got away!” while he lay bleeding on the ground.
Although it was an embarrassing episode for the prison, the other six convicts didn’t stay at large for long. Officials in Tennessee began an all-out manhunt, and within minutes of their escape, the prisoners had hundreds of members of law enforcement chasing them. Ray was only free for 55 hours before the police found him in the nearby Cumberland Mountains. Two days later, every other escapee had been recaptured. It was the latest in a long line of escape attempts by Ray who seemingly enjoyed the challenge of trying to break out of jail.
In 1971, he tried to escape from Brushy Mountain by hacking through a bar, breaking fan blades and crawling into a ventilation tunnel. He left a dummy in his bed in an escape reminiscent of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. Ray crawled through the tunnel and made it as far as the prison yard underground. He took away a manhole cover from a steam tunnel and tried to get through. However, the 400-degree temperature in the room forced him to backtrack, and the guards caught him. Ray made another failed attempt in 1972.