Crime sprees and their ensuing manhunts are often stranger than fiction. Here are 5 of history's biggest.
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Admit it, there’s something thrilling about watching law enforcement hunting down a violent criminal on the loose. The drama, the expense, and the scale makes it almost impossible to look away. Here are some of the biggest manhunts of all time.
Everyone knows that John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, but did you know it took 12 days before federal troops found him? Even with a $100,000 reward for his capture (which is like $1.4 million today) _and_ a broken leg, Booth evaded the authorities by hiding in the woods and holing up in a barn in Virginia. He refused to surrender when found, so the barn was set afire. Accounts differ, but most agree that Booth died there, either from his burns or a gunshot wound.
Outlaw Ned Kelly started off fighting for poor Australian colonists struggling under British rule. But when he was accused of killing three policemen, Kelly and his crew hid in the Australian bush. Not content to lay low, the group robbed several banks and burned their mortgage contracts. When the police surrounded Kelly’s hideout, he greeted them in a gigantic suit of homemade, bulletproof steel armor. He was no Tony Stark however, and neglected to cover his legs. The cops immobilized Kelly and he was hanged for his crimes in 1880.
It took a two-month international manhunt to capture the man who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. When the murder weapon was found on a sidewalk, investigators traced it to an Eric Starvo Galt. Fingerprints revealed Galt was an alias for James Earl Ray, and the FBI traced his laundry tags, pliers and Ford Mustang from Atlanta to L.A. Agents sifting through 175,000 passports tracked Ray to Toronto, Portugal and London’s Heathrow Airport, where he was finally arrested in 1969.
One of the longest manhunts in U.S. history was the 18 years it took to catch “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Using homemade explosives, Kaczynski mailed bombs that killed 3 people and wounded 23. Isolating himself in a log cabin in Montana made Kaczynski hard to catch. But he couldn’t help sending hand-written manifestos to the media. When his brother saw one he recognized the style and alerted authorities, who arrested Kaczynski in 1996.
L.A. cop Christopher Dorner was fired in 2013 for falsely accusing a fellow officer of kicking an arrestee. Dorner used social media to denounce his removal… and then went on a shooting spree against police officers and their families that killed 4 people and wounded 3. For 2 weeks Dorner fled from California to Mexico. But when he was cornered in a cabin filled with tear gas and fire, Dorner committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Which manhunt glued you the most to media? Let us know in the comments and subscribe for more. And for more infamous manhunts from the Boston Marathon Bombers to escaped IRA prisoners, check out our original article on HowStuffWorks.com.