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Arts & Life

SD's 1920 Prison Break: A Very Bad Day in Jones County

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NPR

The attached interview above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs sho the Moment.

At 3:00 pm on the afternoon of August 17, 1922, four inmates started a minor riot in the prison's tailor shop. It was just a distraction. Armed with knives they'd fashioned from prison dinnerware, they attacked Deputy Warden Muchow and a guard, seriously wounding the Deputy Warden. Prison Warden Jameson went to investigate and was made hostage.

The four inmates tied Jameson up and tossed him into a car and drove away. They dropped the Warden off at a church near Crooks and headed west. Warden Jameson was able to free himself and walk to a nearby farm for help. So began a multi-state manhunt.

The suspects were reportedly seen near Arlington, in east-central South Dakota. Several days later, they were spotted near Niobrara, Nebraska. Along the way, they stole three more cars and somehow acquired a .22 caliber rifle and at least one shotgun.

They reached Murdo on August 25, 1922. That night, several individuals were seen stealing tires, wheels, and other removable parts from the car of a man named J.A. Robertson. Robertson called the County Sheriff, Jay C. Babcock. M.L. Parish, the Jones County State's Attorney, joined the men and the three drove west looking for the thieves. They found them, parked on a slope and out of gas about 25 miles west of town The men were evidently just waiting for someone to drive by.

The inmates pulled their guns on Babcock, Parish, and Robertson. They tore Robertson's raincoat into strips and used them to bind their hostages. They drove the men to a remote ravine and shot each one. They left the men for dead, covering their bodies with loose hay.

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