Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bonnie and Clyde: Romeo and Juliet in a Getaway Car

Waco Jailbreak

"Tears and parting may make us forlorn,
But with the dawn, a new day is born."
Good Night, Sweetheart

R. Noble, J. Campbell, R. Connelly, and R. Vallee

It is believed that Bonnie, now suddenly in love, refreshed with life and having forgotten about her loser husband, even drove the gang's car while Clyde and his friends pilfered cash registers and shoplifted.

On February 12, 1930, Clyde heard there were long-coated men with somber faces asking about him all over town. He confessed to Bonnie that they were possibly policemen wanting him for past crimes, especially within Waco County. He might have to leave town, he said, but would send her a post card notifying her of his whereabouts. She promised to wait for him. As long as it took.

Clyde Barrow (AP)
Clyde Barrow (AP)

That evening, while packing, Clyde was arrested. He was moved to Waco County for trial and sat out his days and nights in the prisoner ward of the gothic Waco Courthouse awaiting trial. His new-found inamorata, Bonnie, found herself yearning to be near him in letters she penned she called him "Sugar but, Waco seemed like the other end of the world. Finally, against her mother's wishes, she took time off from her job and grabbed a bus to Cousin Mary's house in that city.

During one of her visitations with Clyde, she acquainted his cellmate, Frank Turner, a two-time loser with big dreams. He told Bonnie that because this was third arrest, if found guilty at his upcoming trial he would be sent "up the river for a long time". His only hope was to escape. But, he needed a gun. His parents in East Waco had such an item, and they were out of town. He wondered: If he drew a map of his parents' home, indicating where the gun was stashed, could Bonnie confiscate it and smuggle it in to Clyde? He promised to take Clyde with him.

Bonnie didn't hesitate. She took the blueprint sketched out hurriedly on a napkin by Turner and convinced her cousin to drive straight to East Waco for the treasure hunt. Given the address, the girls broke into the home and followed Turner's directions to where a .32 was concealed in a closet. The next day, while her relative waited in the car, Bonnie carried the weapon in her purse to the visitation dock and slipped it to her Sugar under the noses of the pacing attendants. Clyde then instructed her to go back to Dallas and wait for him.

In court, Frank Turner received the verdict he expected a stiff one: 20 four-years terms for burglary. But, that evening, he and Clyde acted. As a guard slid a tray of supper under their cell bars, Clyde thrust the revolver into his face, simultaneously collaring him. Surprised and frightened, the latter unlocked their cell and mutely took their place inside. Clyde and Turner walked out.

At home, Bonnie had kept constant vigilance on the morning papers. She was delighted to read of the jail break, but when Clyde didn't appear at her door over the next couple of days she understood why. Police sedans were cruising the streets outside Old Man Barrow's gas station. Her absconding Romeo was too hot an item in Dallas to come home now.

Instead, Clyde and Turner absconded to Illinois, robbing service stations, fruit stands and markets along the way. They frequently stole cars to elude the highway patrols. As well, says author E.R. Milner in The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde, "Clyde stole automobile license plates and changed them frequently...a practice that he would use extensively later." But, while working mostly Ohio with Turner, Clyde learned an even more valuable lesson in his earliest crime years: to change plates immediately after a job. A delay in doing so after robbing a Baltimore & Ohio train depot resulted in his recapture. A passerby had memorized the plate number, notified the police, and the law caught up with him on the road.

Summoned Waco officials returned Clyde and Turner to Texas.

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