Larry Chism

Between September and December of 1978, Larry Chism - an unassuming young man incarcerated for numerous drug offenses - was able to orchestrate two successful escape attempts. The first landed him back in custody a week later; but the second has resulted in his continued freedom for over 40 years. To-date, he has yet to be recaptured, and is still sought after by the US Marshals…

Larry Porter Chism was born on December 19th, 1948, in the small town of Forrest City, Arkansas - about 45 miles southwest of Memphis, Tennessee. At the time, Forrest City had a population of around 10,000, and was nicknamed the "Jewel of the Delta" (despite what the origins of its actual name would imply). After all, Forrest City was named after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who would go on to be elected as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan... a legacy that continues to loom large over the town itself.

Larry Chism would grow up in Forrest City under the supervision of his parents, Millard and Francis Chism, who also had two other sons: John and Harry.

Larry was known by all to be rather bookish - even somewhat nerdy - and he would achieve high marks throughout high school. Following his graduation, he began to attend Memphis State University, where he began to grow into his rather-lanky frame. Here, he made the acquaintance of several people that would later be associated with him, including another young man named William Hinson, who was a fellow student at MSU. The two became fast friends and even lived with one another for a spell while away at school.

In this time period, Larry also fell in love... for a time, at least. The woman's named was Harriet, and together, she and Larry would have two children together: both daughters, who were born in 1969 and 1970, respectively. The daughters were not ever really close with their father, as Harriet - their mother - divorced Larry very early in their lives and relocated them out-of-state.

As the 1960's came to a close, Larry Chism was a young man just entering adulthood. He was a college student living in Memphis, Tennessee, who had just recently married and had two daughters. But in 1970 - the year that his second daughter was born - Larry was drafted into the U.S. Army, which was currently engaged overseas in the long-lasting Vietnam War. He would serve in the Army for the next two years - spending time in Vietnam - before receiving an honorary discharge in 1972. Following his discharge, he returned to Memphis, and enrolled once again at Memphis State University... where his smart and charismatic nature seemed to be moving him forward in life.

At this point, Larry Chism was known as an incredibly intelligent young man, who seemed poised to achieve great things in life. He was already well on his way to earning his law degree at Memphis State University, but things would soon come-to-light that would permanently cancel these plans.

Larry was just weeks away from his graduation in 1974, when he was arrested and charged with a litany of crimes: in addition to armed robbery, he was also alleged to have possessed and sold illegal narcotics (namely heroin) in mass quantities over a prolonged period of time. It turns out that there was much more to Larry than met the eye... while his outward appearance and bookish nature allowed him to go through life uninterrupted, he had covertly been operating a drug enterprise, which he was the ringleader of.

While at school, Larry had recruited fellow students to help carry out this operation. Many of these accomplices were just teenagers, who had been chosen to smuggle heroin across the U.S.-Mexico border. Their lives were now permanently impacted by this decision to partake in Larry's operation, but they would not be the last whose lives he would influence.

Later that year, Larry was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the creation of this drug ring.

Normally, this is where the story would end. After all, for many, a 40-year sentence is a guarantee of a life wasted. But for Larry Chism, this was merely a setback. You see, his conviction, which came about in a Memphis courthouse in July of 1974, is where our story really begins.

Over the next few years, Larry Chism would lie low inside of prison. There, he let his naturally charismatic and rather-unassuming nature guide him, blending into the background of the prison population. He had even started to curry favor with the prison staff, who appreciated his earnestness in peacefully resolving conflicts between the guards and his fellow inmates. He had joined the staff of the prison newspaper, "The Phoenix," and seemed to be settling into a nice routine while incarcerated.

Prison staff believed that Larry's kind nature was part of a ploy to perhaps gain favor and apply for early release. To them, he seemed like a young man trying to make the best of a bad situation. But, unbeknownst to them, Larry had other plans... which began to unfold roughly four years after his incarceration.

On September 13th, 1978 - a Wednesday - Larry was one of more than 30 inmates allowed a reprieve from their monotonous prison life. They were allowed to have a supervised trip to a nearby bowling alley not too far away from the prison: the Bowl-A-Rena in Dickson, Tennessee. There, they would be closely monitored by a handful of armed guards.

The outing seemed to be going well for a time. But at some point, Larry started heading to the men's room, and another inmate followed him. They seemed to be holding suspicious packages under their arms, which caught the attention of a Correctional Officer. This was the beginning of Larry Chism's long-awaited plot, which had been planned out weeks - if not months - in advance.

Earlier that day, William Hinson - Larry Chism's longtime friend, who had once been his college roommate - had made a trip of his own to the Bowl-A-Rena. There, he had planted a few firearms near the men's bathroom; a pair of sawed-off shotguns, to be exact. He had visited Larry in prison multiple times during his incarceration and helped come up with this plan; eventually hiding the weapons in a place that only Larry would think to search.

Now, hours later, Larry and a fellow inmate had grabbed hold of the weapons and were hoping to begin their escape by arming themselves in the men's bathroom.

The Correctional Officer, who noticed this bizarre activity, began following Larry and the other inmate into the bathroom. As the guard entered the bathroom, though, Larry surprised the man by leveling a shotgun at his head. Thankfully, there was no round in the chamber, and the guard was able to back up. He slammed the bathroom door against Larry and fell back into the main area of the bowling alley, where he pulled out his service weapon and prepared for violence.

Armed with shotguns, Larry and his accomplice began engaging in a shootout with Correctional Officers, who struggled to gain control of the situation. One of the C.O.'s would be shot by Larry in this maelstrom; once in the chest, where he was saved by his bulletproof vest, and then another time in the arm. The two shots incapacitated him, but not before he fired back at Larry; hitting the escaping inmate once in the hand, nearly "blowing off this thumb," by some reports.

The gunfight lasted less than 30 seconds, but numerous shots had been fired; mostly, into the ceiling of the bowling alley. The C.O. that Larry had initially struggled with lay bleeding on the floor of the bowling alley and would later find himself in critical condition.

Larry Chism began to make his escape from the bowling alley with the help of three inmates: Ronald Lyons, a man serving a 50-year armed robbery sentence; as well as George Bonds and Floyd Brewer, who were each serving decades-long rape sentences. They gathered weapons from the four incapacitated or surrendered C.O.'s, who all carried .38-caliber pistols. The four escaping inmates then took a female employee of the bowling alley hostage, leading her outside at gunpoint.

During this time period, it became clear to those in the bowling alley that Larry Chism had been the ringleader of this entire escape. The other three inmates he marshaled together and began barking orders at seemed to follow his command willingly, and it was obvious to anyone in-attendance that he had orchestrated the entire thing.

One of the C.O.'s would later recall on "America's Most Wanted":

"It was a set-up from the beginning, a planned-out deal from the beginning. There was no back talk, he did not have to ask them a second time."

The four inmates made their way outside with their female hostage, a part-time Bowl-A-Rena employee. There, they car-jacked a vehicle belonging to another employee of the bowling alley, and began speeding towards the nearby Dickson Municipal Airport, which is where the next step in Larry's dastardly plan took place.

There, Larry and the other three inmates freed their female hostage but turned the sights of their weapons to the owner of the airport, who was a pilot himself. The man, whose young son was with him, was forced to quickly prepare his four-seat Cessna. The escaping inmates demanded the man fly them out of Tennessee into neighboring Arkansas, taking both him and his son hostage.

Within minutes, the four inmates were in the air, along with the pilot and his son. However, the four-seat plane - which was already beyond its seating capacity - was not equipped for this time of flight. In addition, the flight had been unplanned and rushed, which meant that the pilot had not had time to make proper precautions or preparations. Shortly after crossing into Arkansas, the Cessna began to experience some mechanical issues, and was forced to make an emergency landing on a dirt road in Marianna, Arkansas... which, in a turn of fate, was just about 20 or so miles away from Forrest City, where Larry had grown up.

A farmer that witnessed the plane landing on his property rushed out in his black truck to offer his assistance, and was greeted by the four armed inmates, who immediately took him captive and stole his truck. He would eventually be freed - just like the rest of the hostages - but the inmates would use his truck to hasten their escape. Eventually, they split up into pairs, and Larry fled with Ronald Lyons, a man serving a 50-year sentence for armed robbery. Together, they would take an elderly couple hostage, whom they eventually released - unharmed - in the backwoods of Kentucky. That was when the two split up, and Larry found himself on his own.

Larry made his escape on-foot from there, more than 200 miles away from the bowling alley. Police theorized that he might have been trying to flee back to the area of his hometown, where it would have been easy for him to assimilate and hide among his loved ones. It was a real fear to investigators that this could prolong their search for days, weeks, or even months, as Larry was intimately familiar with this area, and had likely been able to go-to-ground.

Two of the inmates that had escaped with Larry - George Bonds and Floyd Brewer - had been captured just a day or so after their escape. They had split up from Larry and were only able to last a single day on their own. After being re-captured, they told police that Larry was likely headed towards Texas, and this tidbit of information led to a series of roadblocks and searches, as police attempted to narrow in on Larry's location.

That weekend, a man identified Larry Chism as a man that had asked him for a ride earlier that day, and a woman reported seeing a similar man near her home in Calico Rock, Arkansas. Aided by FBI agents, regional and state police began closing in around Larry Chism, who became desperate once again. He car-jacked and kidnapped a local man, taking him as a hostage and using his truck in an attempt to flee. However, the truck was quickly located by police, who converged on the location and engaged in a high-speed chase through this rural area of Arkansas.

During the chase, police began firing rounds into the vehicle, with one grazing Larry's head. Thankfully, nobody was hurt in the process, but the shots had their intended affect: the truck was forced off of the road after crashing into an impromptu roadblock set up by the police.

Larry Chism had finally been detained and arrested, four days after orchestrating his escape from the Bowl-A-Rena in the neighboring state. His wounds were treated at the scene and he was soon booked into the Lonoke County Jail, where he was officially charged with kidnapping, theft, and a number of other crimes he had committed in the process of escaping custody.

That September, Larry was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the Middle District of Tennessee. He was indicted on five counts relating to his escape and plane-hijacking, which was likely to result in decades being added onto his prison sentence.

Two months later, in November of 1978, Larry Chism and two of his accomplices plead guilty to the charges filed against them. They were each given an additional thirty years in prison, meaning that Larry Chism - who had served roughly four years out of his original 40-year sentence - was looking at spending the rest of his life in either state or federal prison.

While awaiting his sentence for the escape attempt, 29-year-old Larry Chism had recovered from his wounds. His head and hand wounds both healed properly, and - within days - he was back to his old self.

Once again, he began to assimilate into his surroundings: this time, instead of it being a prison, it was the Lonoke County Jail. This is where he was awaiting further charges related to his escape attempt, which was sure to put him into another state-run institution; perhaps, even a maximum facility prison, due to his violent escape attempt. He had thrown away most of his good will in that endeavor and was looking at spending the rest of his life behind bars.

However, just like before, Larry Chism's outward appearance seemed to shield him from harsher scrutiny. He was a lanky, nerdy-looking, unassuming young man, who somehow looked both older and younger than his 29 years.

On December 22nd, 1978 - just three days after his 30th birthday - Larry Chism began acting out a second escape attempt. Just like the first from approximately 3 months prior, he conspired with three other inmates; including two from the previous attempt, George Bonds and Floyd Brewer.

The four men were able to get their hands on a wrench, which they used to open up an air conditioning vent. They then crawled through this vent to a nearby room, which houses weapons and keys for the jailhouse. Now armed - and with keys to open up select doors - the four men were able to overpower a guard from a nearby room, stealing his car keys and sidearm and then locking him in a cell. They then made good on their escape, using the guard's 1977 Ford Thunderbird to speed away from the jail, as no one noticed their escape for precious hours.

By the end of the year, three out of the four inmates had been re-captured... but Larry Chism had yet to be found.

While Larry's prison break accomplices were all eventually tracked down, he was somehow able to avoid capture. Police believed that he had fled to the area of Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was able to blend into society under an assumed name.

Investigators would eventually learn that Larry Chism had adopted a number of pseudonyms; some of which had likely been established by acquaintances of his prior to his escape. Some of Larry's friends - who might have been involved in his drug operation from earlier that decade - had help procure fake identification cards, as well as supplies to live on for the first few weeks. The pseudonyms that he operated under included the following: Daniel Barry, George Rubert, Gary Buoni, as well as both George and Earl McClain. With these names, Larry was able to move around the country unimpeded, and his trail would go cold for several months after his second escape.

Investigators soon theorized that Chism could have helped finance his early travels by single-handedly robbing a bank; the First National Bank in Cincinnati, Ohio, to be exact. The robbery took place roughly one month after his escape - on January 26th, 1979 - and involved a man who looked just like Larry. This man had entered the bank and pretended to be an official with the U.S. Treasury, who then claimed to have a bomb. This man then left the bank with roughly $250,000 in cash and bonds, never firing a shot or harming anyone. He blended into a nearby crowd and escaped unscathed.

It was later believed that Larry had been the man behind that robbery, and - despite never being officially charged or convicted in the case - he was indicted years later, in 1985 (just one day before the statute of limitations expired). Some eyewitnesses had identified him with mug shots, but - since he has never stood trial for the crimes - it's hard to determine whether or not he was actually involved.

The hunt to find Larry Chism had essentially grown cold by the summer of 1979, but police would later learn that he had found his way to New Orleans, Louisiana. That summer, he began working a series of manual labor jobs, such as roofing and siding; temporary gigs where his identity wasn't a pressing concern. While living and working in New Orleans, he began rooming with a co-worker he would become friendly with, named Jimmy Price. Eventually, he started dating a local woman named Evelyn Wood, who would be one of the many women that Larry Chism would fool over the next several years.

Evelyn had no idea what Larry's history was; in fact, she didn't know his true name. She only ever knew him as either George or Earl McClain, not knowing that he was an escaped fugitive with active warrants from multiple states. After a short period of dating, the two moved in together, and - in the latter half of 1979 - Larry Chism would suffer a serious injury while working.

Using the assumed surname McClain, Larry Chism had begun working a series of manual labor jobs, in addition to regular blood donations at a nearby plasma center. However, one day - when he was loading plywood onto a roof at a roofing site - he slipped and fell two stories. Later that day, he was admitted to a nearby hospital in New Orleans, where he would spend the next several weeks recovering.

Sadly, the hospital records for this hospital were destroyed decades later - in 2005, during Hurricane Katrina - so the specific details of this stay aren't known. However, we do know that this injury derailed Larry's career at the time, and ultimately led to his relationship with Evelyn souring.

Right at the beginning of 1980, the two split up, with Evelyn learning about his true identity. Following the split, she moved in with some family members of hers, abandoning the apartment they had once shared. Larry then moved to Mobile, Alabama, where his friend Jimmy had just moved to. There, he was able to find some more roofing work, and began to settle into a routine. However, he wasn't able to last in Mobile for long, as Evelyn decided to speak to the FBI, giving them information about Larry and where he could be found.

Somehow, though, Larry was able to evade the FBI, always remaining one step ahead as they struggled to ascertain his whereabouts.

While living in Alabama, Larry Chism had worked a series of manual labor jobs. Everyone knew him under one of his aliases, and - using his charm - Larry was able to obtain a number of girlfriends, whom he would stay or live with for short periods of time.

One of these girlfriends was a young woman named Linda Hicks, whom Larry had moved in with during the first half of 1980. By this point, Evelyn - his previous girlfriend - had turned on Larry and informed the FBI about his whereabouts, but they were too late in capturing him.

Roughly one month after Larry's most recent exodus, police were able to track down Linda Hicks. They brought her in for an interview, and asked her questions about her relationship with Larry, when she had last seen him, etc. The answers she provided were pretty illuminating, but did little to help track down Larry.

Linda Hicks told federal investigators that Larry Chism had been notified ahead-of-time that the FBI was looking for him. So, Linda, who had a few children, made the decision to drop off her kids and flee the region with Larry. She told her sister that they would be back in a few days, and the two then hit the road, narrowly evading the FBI's searches.

A search of the couple's trailer revealed that Larry Chism had been researching how to live as a fugitive, including stockpiling the personal details of strangers to help create fake identities, as well as having information about setting up mail drops for supplies and other material he couldn't obtain as a fugitive. Police even learned that Larry had been calling the family members of deceased children in an attempt to learn about them, hoping to adopt the deceased child's identity and use their personal info to obtain birth certificates, social security numbers, etc. It was a pretty lengthy process, but it had helped him establish the fake identities he used on the run; many of which, officials hadn't even caught up on.

Following their disappearance from the region, Larry and Linda had fled to Magnolia Springs, Alabama; then turned their attention east, towards Florida. Eventually, they decided to stop in Georgia, and then began heading north towards South Carolina. During this trip, they mostly slept in their car, but occasionally stopped in low-cost motels to rest and shower. They had not been able to run away with much in the way of cash, so had to subsist off of odd jobs they could find at service stations, as well as a few stops to blood donation centers.

After about a week away from her children, Linda Hicks had decided to return home. Larry accompanied her for a bit but decided not to return to Alabama. When she spoke to the FBI, Linda said that she had left Larry behind at a rest stop in Meridian, Mississippi, and had not seen or spoken to him since.

This would be his last known location for roughly half-a-decade.

It wasn't until 1986 that Larry Chism's whereabouts became known to federal investigators once again. That was when one of his pseudonyms - Gregory Moser - relocated from West Virginia to Charlotte, North Carolina. The interim six years remain a mystery, for the most part.

While living in Charlotte, Larry seems to have adopted yet another alias... the one he would become most closely associated with: Kenneth Lamar Brookins. Under this name, he applied for a driver's license on September 29th, 1988, and listed his address as an apartment building on South Tryon Street.

Here, Larry is believed to have been living with a woman who went by the name Debra Brookins. The two claimed to be married; and, according to their names, they were. However, this mysterious woman was just as much a mystery as Larry was, with police today still not knowing her true identity. She had also gone by Sheri Moser prior to adopting this name.

Living in Charlotte, the two seemed to have at least one daughter. However, they might have had up to three daughters, who went by the names Brenda, Barbi, and Sandy. Only one of the daughters was ever confirmed by eyewitnesses - the eldest daughter, Brenda, who was described as looking a lot like Debra and who might have attended school in the Charlotte area - but the existence of the two younger daughters has not been ruled out. Together, these daughters were believed to have some ties to Rock Hill, South Carolina, and they might have been home-schooled.

For a while, this family unit lived in a motel while Larry began looking for work in Charlotte. They began attending a local church - the Christians United for People Ministries, often abbreviated as "CUP" - and here, they reached out to obtain assistance with food and clothing as they tried to stand up on their own two feet.

Minister Tom Johnson, who headed the ministry, claims that he met Larry Chism and his family in the first half of 1989, when he asked for some help for his family. Minister Johnson became familiar with Larry - who he knew as "Kenneth Brookins" - as well as his wife, Debra. He remembered Debra having an eye problem despite not wearing glasses, as she always needed to hold reading material close-to-her-face in order to make out the words.

Minister Johnson says that this family often attended auctions and yard sales, and said that the Brookins had three daughters; the oldest of which, named Brenda, had a speech problem. He said that the CUP Ministries helped provide YMCA memberships for the three girls the following year - 1990 - and recalls the family being avid campers, who spent a lot of time outdoors.

During this time period, Minister Johnson says that Larry - operating under the pseudonym "Kenneth Brookins" - often provided free or cheap carpet and handiwork service for the homes of CUP Ministry attendees. He seemed to have carpet-laying equipment of his own, which seemed to be how he earned his meager living.

On at least one occasion, Minister Johnson had driven Larry's wife - the woman calling herself Debra Brookins - home after service, when the buses weren't running. He says that the woman seemed guarded, never letting the Minister see where she and her family lived. When he dropped her off, she asked him to drop her off near a somewhat-busy intersection, in a parking lot that was across the street from a housing development. The Minister believed that they lived in a nearby duplex, but he couldn't be sure.

Larry and his adopted family seem to have settled into a quiet life in Charlotte, and he soon began to work for a home-building company in Matthews, North Carolina. Debra, his wife, had found a job closer-to-home, at a laundromat/bar with flexible hours. They eventually moved into an apartment building along Castleton Road, and owned two vehicles: a white 1972 Ford - a fixer-upper that Larry had purchased from a coworker - as well as a 1978 Chevy van, which Debra primarily used.

Sheldon Lewis was one of Larry's co-workers and friends, who only knew him as Kenneth Brookins. The two became friendly during their time working together, but Sheldon never knew much about Larry. The other man never spoke much about his past, other than some vague statements in which he admitted to smuggling weed from Mexico with his friends years prior. This statement - which wasn't too far away from the truth - didn't really surprise Sheldon, as Larry (or Kenneth, as he was known) was a regular weed-smoker who was growing plants of his own inside his apartment.

Sheldon later told police that - on at least one occasion - Larry had expressed an interest in returning to Mexico at some point.

Sheldon had sold Larry the white 1972 Ford under the assumption that he would fix it up and resell it in the future. It was barely functional, so Sheldon ended up giving Larry rides to work most days. He claims that in all of the interactions he had with Larry and his family, he only ever saw one daughter: the oldest daughter, Brenda, whom he claims Larry helped out with homework almost every single school night.

Despite being one of Larry's closest friends in the Charlotte area, Sheldon wasn't able to provide much in the way of information about the family. He only ever knew Larry and his wife as Kenneth and Debra Brookins and was unable to confirm that they had more than one daughter. Additionally, he knew very little about Debra - Larry's supposed wife - other than stating that she had brown hair, had an eye issue but didn't wear glasses, and had some kind of familial connection to the state of Florida; that was where her mother and either father or stepfather lived... that was never quite clear.

This life as Kenneth and Debra Brookins seemed to suit Larry and the woman he was living with, and the two enjoyed a quiet, rather-peaceful existence with the woman's children in Charlotte through the end of 1989. But on January 3rd, 1990, that was all flipped on its head. That Wednesday evening, "Unsolved Mysteries" aired a segment about Larry Chism's escape from prison over a decade prior, in December of 1978. Larry Chism, living as Kenneth Brookins, actually saw the episode as it aired, and seemed to realize that the life he had built for himself was about to come crashing in around him.

In an effort to keep his freedom, Larry fled with his family. Together, they left behind almost everything besides the clothing on their back: furniture, food, even an upcoming paycheck, which Larry had yet to collect. They left town in the 1978 van, and never looked back.

Right before leaving town, Larry had called a coworker of his and told him that he had just seen his own story on "Unsolved Mysteries." He said that he was leaving but would be back in approximately three months to pick up his final paycheck. In the meantime, his co-worker could have everything else left behind in the home or at the workplace.

Larry Chism would never return for that last paycheck and seemed to leave behind the identity of Kenneth Brookins forever. He never contacted any of his other friends or acquaintances in Charlotte. In a single night, him and his entire family had just... disappeared.

Investigators would only be able to pick up Larry's trail one final time in Atlanta, Georgia. He had been in Atlanta in December of 1990 - roughly 11 months after his getaway from Charlotte - and police knew this because he had sold his van to another roofer in Atlanta, who bought the van for his work. Unfortunately, he would not register the vehicle for close to a year, so it wasn't until 1991 that police learned about this... close to two years after his last sighting in Charlotte.

This last stop - in Atlanta, Georgia on December 4th, 1990 - would be Larry Chism's last known location. In the decades since, he has become a ghost, and has rightfully been one of America's most wanted men.

During his many escapes and escape attempts, Larry is believed to have planned everything out ahead-of-time. In his prison breaks, he is known to have had a network of friends outside of prison help in the preparation, knowing full-well that simply escaping from prison wasn't enough to remain a free man. Escapees needed a network of acquaintances to keep and maintain their freedom, especially if they wanted to continue existing in the same country.

Even outside of prison, Larry Chism had been careful to plan out everything ahead-of-time. He had adopted numerous identities, using hours of careful research to craft each one, applying for and receiving official documentation with information he managed to coax out of family members. Police discovered that he had done much of this leg work on his own, and even had with him a laminating machine which helped him forge authentic-looking ID cards.

Many of Larry's accomplices would become known in the months and years after his escapes, with many facing criminal charges due to their involvement with - and loyalty to - Larry Chism.

Ronald Lyons was a convicted felon who had escaped from the Bowl-A-Rena in Dickson, Tennessee, alongside Larry in September of 1978. While Larry and the other two escaped inmates were eventually re-captured, Ronald managed to evade capture for over a year. When he was finally found and arrested out in Nevada, he claimed that he had had no further communication with Larry Chism, and was not believed to have been involved in the subsequent escape attempt from December of 1978.

William Hinson was another one of Larry's accomplices, and was perhaps his oldest and longest-lasting friend. The two had become friends while attending Memphis State University, and - following Larry's incarceration for creating a drug ring - had visited Larry in prison numerous times. Police would later learn that Hinson had helped conspire to break him out, planting the two sawed-off shotguns in the bowling alley, which Larry and his accomplices later used to shoot out numerous Correctional Officers and make their escape.

For more than a decade, William Hinson also went on the lam, becoming a wanted fugitive for his involvement in the prison break plot. It wasn't until June of 1992 that he surrendered to the FBI, telling them that he had fled to Tucson, Arizona - where he had been living in hiding for nearly 13 years. He even alleged to have seen Larry in the interim decade, although the specific circumstances of these encounters are not publicly available. It is possible that Larry had gone west after fleeing North Carolina, but there are several years of Larry's life unaccounted for.

Some of Larry's other friends from college were believed to have been involved in the planning of his escape from the bowling alley in September of 1978, but determining who knew what, exactly, beforehand would prove to be an almost-impossible task. To-date, many of the people that helped expedite Larry Chism's flight from custody have yet to be brought-to-justice or even identified.

Larry Porter Chism is still wanted by federal officials, with numerous outstanding warrants existing for his arrest. His trail became cold just days after his story was featured on "Unsolved Mysteries" in January of 1990, and - other than a brief record of him being in Atlanta the following December - he has been in the wind for almost thirty years.

Larry's case was forwarded to the U.S. Marshals Service in 1993, and they have been conducting extensive investigations into Larry's whereabouts and his past in the decades since. They continue to hunt for him, and that is how I actually learned about this story; an Unresolved listener, who works for the Marshals Service, got in touch with me to help highlight this incredibly unknown story, and I was more than happy to oblige.

Larry Chism is believed to be alive and well today. He is known as a chameleon: a rather mundane, normal-looking guy that can blend into almost any environment. Physically, he stood around 5'10" and weighed around 160 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair that has likely grayed or whitened by now. He has scars on his left and right arms, and a noticeable birthmark on his left thigh. He has worn thick prescription glasses in the past - which contributed to his bookish appearance - but may have adopted contacts in the years since.

Chism doesn't talk much but can blend into most conversations. Having spent his formative years in Arkansas and Tennessee, he seems to prefer the south - as the climate allowed him to find regular work year-round - but is known to move around. Officials know that he has lived in numerous southern states, such as Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, and may have hidden in plain sight in communities where he has friends or family. He also may have moved on to Mexico or another nation entirely, where he kept connections from his work in the drug trade; but, if so, he has left behind no record of having done so.

It is possible that Larry is still living with (and potentially married to) the woman he was last seen with who identified herself as Debra Brookins and had previously used the social security number of a woman named Sheri Moser. She is a white female who once stood around 5'2", had dirty blond hair that might have been brown, and is believed to be in her mid-60's (if not slightly older). She had an eye problem but did not wear glasses and had some kind of connection to the state of Florida.

The woman calling herself Debra and/or Sheri had at least one daughter: a girl named Brenda, who likely attended schools in North Carolina between 1988 and 1990. Brenda was believed to have been born in July of 1978 and went by the nicknames "Brandi" and "Poo." It's possible that there were at least two other daughters living with Larry and his wife, named Barbi and Sandi.

If any of this information sounds familiar, you are encouraged to reach out to the United States Marshal Service. Any tips can be called in to 1-877-926-8332, and you can even submit tips online at the following web address:

To date, Larry Porter Chism has been the longest-lasting fugitive on the USMS Most Wanted List. He is believed to still be alive today and would be in his early 70's if so. Until such time that an update is warranted, his story remains unresolved.


Episode Information

Episode Information

Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan

Special thanks to Tim Fraley with the USMS, who brought this case to my attention. Without the hard work of Tim and his associates - in particular, Victor, Adrian, and Rachael - this episode wouldn’t have been possible.

Producers: Maggyjames, Ben Krokum, Roberta Janson, Matthew Brock, Quil Carter, Peggy Belarde, Evan White, Laura Hannan, Astrid Kneier, Katherine Vatalaro, Damion Moore, Amy Hampton Miller, Scott Meesey, Steven Wilson, Scott Patzold, Kathy Marie, Marie Vanglund, Lori Rodriguez, Emily McMehen, Jessica Yount, Brian Rollins, and Allie Ibarra

Published on August 18th, 2019

Music Credits

All original music created by Micheal Whelan through Amper Music

Theme music created and composed by Ailsa Traves

Sources and further reading

US Marshals (Most Wanted Poster)

FBI (Most Wanted Poster)

FBI Magazine - Larry Chism

Unsolved Mysteries Wiki - Larry Chism

America’s Most Wanted (Archive) - Larry Porter Chism

The New York Times - “‘Dangerous’ Prisoners Who Fled Jail in Fall Escape a Second Time”

Associated Press - “Man Indicted But Still Free After Seven Years”

The Benton Courier - “Roadblocks set up for escapees” (September 14th, 1978)

The Kittanning Leader Times - “Convicts Escape in Hijacked Plane” (September 14th, 1978)

The Corbin Times-Tribune - “Bad Weather Hinders Search For Prison Escapees” (September 14th, 1978)

The Sedalia Democrat - “Police seize 2 escapees after airplane hijacking” (September 15th, 1978)

The Eau Claire Leader Telegram - “Third prison escapee captured after chase” (September 18th, 1978)

The Jacksonville Journal Courier - “Escapees get extra 30 years” (November 12th, 1978)

Northwest Arkansas Times - “Fugitive Arraigned” (January 6th, 1979)