Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Gary Krist: The Einstein of Crime

The Criminal Brain

Gary Krist
Gary Krist

Gary Steven Krist regards himself as the Einstein of crime.

But Albert Einstein, with his measly theory of relativity, was a one-trick pony by comparison.

Krist's criminal accomplishments are far more diversegrand theft auto, prison escape, fraud, kidnapping for ransom and, most recently, cocaine importation and illegal immigrant smuggling.

He began by stealing cars before he could legally drive them. He had been incarcerated in three different states by age 18. He broke out of prison in California and fled across the country, where he managed to live under a pseudonym while working at two prestigious universities.

Next came his magnum opus, the "perfect crime" he planned while still a callow stripling.

In one of the most audacious and notorious crimes of the 1960s, at age 23, he kidnapped a young heiress in Atlanta and buried her alive in an underground capsule he had designed.

While the country held its breath, Krist and his mistress sidekick extracted a $500,000 ransom from the woman's father, a Florida real estate magnate and friend of President Nixon.

Miraculously, the young woman survived a harrowing 83 hours underground.

But Krist wasn't as clever as he thought.

His getaway plan collapsed, and he was apprehended after a dragnet pinned him down on a Florida mangrove island.

Krist narrowly escaped a death sentence and was sent away to prison "for life," according to the judge's decree.

But life was short in those days.

Krist pulled one of the great flimflams in American prison history by convincing a gullible Georgia parole official that he was rehabilitated.

Vowing to become a missionary, Krist waltzed out of prison after barely 10 years of confinement for a sickening crime that could have cost him his life.

His missionary work didn't pan out. Although it took awhile, Krist's path inevitably led back to crime. 

In the spring of 2006, a police greeting party was waiting at a dock near Mobile, Ala., when Krist returned from a two-month trip aboard a rented sailboat.

Authorities found 38 pounds of cocaine on board, as well as four illegal South Americans who had paid handsomely for passage to the United States.

An investigation revealed that he had been selling the cocaine in Georgiathe state that naively gave him the free pass out of prison years ago. And in an eerie echo from the kidnapping case, Krist had constructed an underground cocaine-processing lab at his home near Auburn, Ga.

Now 61, he has pleaded guilty to multiple federal offenses and faces another life sentence. His next departure from prison may be in a pine box.

Gary Krist lacked education, family direction, motivation, money and a moral compass.

But he never lacked self-confidence. His over-the-top ego is one of the factors that makes the life story of the "Einstein of crime" so captivating.

 

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