The first story takes place in upstate New York in the late 40s, where this fellow named Donald Snyder was serving time in Green Haven Prison for his second auto theft charge. He escapes from prison, but almost immediately ends up kidnapping and killing a 9-year-old girl during a standoff with the police. Snyder was captured and sent to Sing Sing, where he awaited his execution in the electric chair.
This time, Snyder knew he wouldn’t be able to escape from prison – especially not Sing Sing – so he came up with a new plan: he figured that if he was too big to fit in the electric chair, they wouldn’t be able to execute him. He started to eat like a madman, anything and everything he could get his hands on. I’m a little fuzzy on the details – how did he get so much food in prison? – but apparently in his final months, Snyder ballooned from 150 lbs up to 300.
The planned date of his execution arrived, and for his final meal he ordered pork and eggs, “and plenty of ‘em!” Snyder was led to the execution chamber to be strapped into the electric chair, and it’s at this point that the accounts I’ve read diverge a little bit. One is that he fit perfectly, and the other is that they had to rig up a bigger one to fit him; either way, they flipped the switch and it worked.
The other story has gotten quite a bit of media coverage in the last few years, but there’s an accompanying video that I just can’t get over. Richard McNair was a convicted murderer who escaped from prison near Pollock, Louisiana, in April of 2006. A couple hours later, as word of the escape spread, he was stopped and questioned at length by a cop, and the entire conversation was recorded on the police car’s video camera. It’s worth watching – you get the sense that even as the cop tries to be as diligent as possible, he really wants to let this fellow go. All he needs is a good enough alibi.
Tim came to Radiolab in 2009 after several years at non-profits, immigrant outreach agencies, coffeeshops, and record stores, as well as a stint doing volunteer work in Central America and Mexico. He continues to write and record music under the name Soltero, which can be heard here.