Chronology of attempted jail escapes

Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ex-convict Joe Contreras spent his first nine years in solitary confinement for his nine escapes, which are described as follows:

1) February 1980 - Clark County Jail in Las Vegas.

Contreras faked an injury and was taken to the hospital for X-rays. He escaped and was not caught again until August after being arrested in Anchorage.

2) Aug. 29, 1980 - Humana Hospital in Anchorage.

After the guard left to use the restroom, Contreras pushed up one of the panels in the ceiling and climbed into ceiling. He said he stayed there about two to four hours until he was discovered.

3) Nov. 6, 1980 - Studio Club halfway house in Anchorage.

Contreras walked out the back door, got on an airplane and flew to Moses Lake, Wash., where he stayed with his brother who got him a job washing dishes. Contreras was caught while picking up his paycheck.

4) February 1981 - Grant County Jail in Moses Lake, Wash.

Contreras went to the dental office and asked to use the bathroom, where he escaped out the window. He was found that evening after trying to use a hotel phone.

5) July 8, 1981 - Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

During recreation time, Contreras spent an hour cutting his cloth restraints with a rock. He then climbed out of the "bear cage" (over the fence), jumped off the roof and fled to the woods, where he was found.

6) Aug. 17, 1981 - Sixth Avenue Jail in Anchorage.

While leaving the jail to court, the guard was unlocking his gun from a safe. Contreras took off running down the street to the corner where he was grabbed by a civilian who had just got off the city bus.

7) Oct. 5, 1981 - Anchorage courtroom.

Contreras attended a jury indoctrination for a trial on one of his previous escapes.

"The judge was actually saying, 'Just because this guy is in here for escape does not mean that he's guilty,'" Contreras said, "and that's when I took off, because I remember those words."

Contreras made it out of the courthouse and parking lot but was caught on a gravel section, which he said was difficult to run on without shoes.

8) July 11, 1982 - Sixth Avenue Jail.

Contreras broke his right leg jumping off the roof with Mike Andrejko, who police chased through Anchorage.

9) July 25, 1984 - Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau.

Contreras escaped at 9:30 a.m. with armed robber Roy Marshall, who had escaped four times prior; Rick Gottardi, who had escaped from a Ketchikan jail; and convicted robber David Springer.

The convicts got out of their cells and tied their bed sheets to a bunk bed, which they used as a battering ram to break open the back doors of the facility. Then they scaled a 12-foot fence topped with "razor ribbon" and fled up a small hill to the north of the jail.

More than 40 law enforcement officers combed the hills behind the jail searching for Springer and Contreras, who weren't captured until that evening.

After his final escape, Contreras was sent to Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights.

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