Most Wanted Monday: The Murderer Who Pulled a Real Life Shawshank Redemption Escape

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
April 8 2013 5:40 PM

Most Wanted Monday: The Murderer Who Pulled a Real Life Shawshank Redemption Escape

Glen Stewart Godwin
Glen Stewart Godwin in 1991.

Federal Bureau of Investigation


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On Most Wanted Monday, we profile the fugitives on various law enforcement agencies’ Most Wanted lists.

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Crime: Murder, escape, unlawful flight to avoid confinement.

Added to most-wanted list: 1996.

The circumstances: In 1987, with no prior criminal record, a California man named Glen Godwin got the bright idea to rob and brutally murder a local drug dealer. He and an associate stabbed Kim LeValley dozens of times with a butcher knife, then loaded the corpse up with explosives, thinking that the evidence would be blown to pieces. The scheme fell through when LeValley’s charred remains were discovered. Godwin was captured, convicted, and sentenced to 26 years to life.

In 1987, perhaps tiring of the company of a bunch of convicts who shot men in Reno just to watch them die, Godwin escaped from Folsom Prison. He did so in grand, cinematic fashion, slipping through an open manhole and crawling 750 feet down a storm drain to the American River, where he used a raft left by an accomplice to paddle his way to freedom. (Authorities have not confirmed whether Morgan Freeman was on hand to narrate the entire thing.)

His wife and ex-cellmate were charged in connection with the escape. Godwin didn’t resurface until 1989, when authorities learned that he had been serving time for drug trafficking in a Mexican prison, under the name “Stewart Carrera.” While waiting to be returned to the United States, Godwin allegedly murdered a fellow inmate in 1991, which stopped the extradition proceedings. He took advantage of this delay to escape from Puente Grande Prison that fall. He hasn’t been heard from since.

His likely whereabouts: Authorities suspect Godwin is in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America, working in the drug trade.

Prospects of catching him: Not great. Every now and then, Godwin is ostensibly spotted, but nothing ever comes of the sightings. Last year, the cops got a tip that Godwin was hiding in Grass Valley, Calif. After a car chase, they apprehended the suspect, only to learn that it wasn’t Godwin at all, just somebody who looked like him. (Oddly, this doppelganger was also on the run after escaping from a Nevada prison, so his capture was a nice consolation prize.)

Most Wanted Score: Glen Godwin is a proper villain. Two murders, two escapes, and a long stint in the Mexican drug trade is more than enough to qualify you for any Most Wanted List. 7.5 out of 10 for Godwin.

Previously featured on Most Wanted Monday: Victor Manuel Gerena Has Eluded the FBI for 29 Years

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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