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Commentary

50 Years After Alcatraz Escape, Mysterious Letter Forces FBI to Re-Open Legendary Case

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A former prison inmate who escaped with two other men from the now-defunct Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island in June of 1962 reportedly sent a letter to the San Francisco Police Department five years ago offering to turn himself in to the authorities so long as they met two of his demands.

San Francisco station KPIX reported Tuesday that the letter writer claimed to be former inmate John Anglin. His first demand was that he would only be forced to serve one year behind bars. And his second demand was that he would receive free, government-subsidized treatment for his cancer. Talk about some stunning chutzpah.

“My name is John Anglin. I escaped from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely!” Anglin reportedly wrote in the letter, which did not become public until now.

“If you announce on TV that I will be promised to first go to jail for no more than a year and get medical attention, I will write back to let you know exactly where I am. This is no joke,” he added.

He also claimed Morris had died in 2008, and his brother had died in 2011.

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While it remains unclear whether the letter was a hoax, it’s obvious as day to anyone with a semblance of common sense that the demands themselves were a giant joke. No serious law enforcement agent would ever agree to such a ludicrous deal.

Plus, the fact remains that many in law enforcement still believe that all three — John Anglin, Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris — died during the escape on June 11, 1962.

They “were long assumed to have drowned as they made their way from the island on a makeshift raft constructed from inflated raincoats,” noted The U.K. Daily Telegraph.

And even if they did escape, it’s hard for anyone to accept that they would have managed to remain free for so many decades.

Do you think they really survived their escape attempt?

“There is absolutely no reason to believe that any of them would have changed their lifestyle and became completely law abiding citizens after this escape,” the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement to KPIX.

There’s also the fact that when the FBI examined the fingerprints, DNA and handwriting on the letter Anglin had allegedly sent to the SFPD, they came back with “inconclusive” results, KPIX reported.

To be fair, though, the men’s families certainly believe they survived: “In 2015 two nephews of John and Clarence, Ken and David Widner, went public saying they thought their uncles were still possibly alive and in their 80s living in Brazil,” the Telegraph pointed out.

The nephews further claimed that the Anglin brothers’ mother, or their grandaunt, received a signed Christmas card from them for three years.

Here’s the kicker: “The handwriting was analysed and believed to be theirs – although the date of the cards could never be proven,” as noted by the Telegraph.

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At this point, it’s hard to determine what’s true and what’s false. All we know for certain is that the Anglin brothers, who were convicted bank robbers, tried to escape in 1962 with Morris, who was a convicted robber and drug dealer.

And that’s where the story begins and, so far, ends. We still don’t know whether they actually made it out. And truthfully, we may very well never know.

That said, because of this mysterious letter, the FBI re-opened the investigation into what happened to John Anglin, Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris.

Please share this story on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think about this letter that the SFPD received five years ago.

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