Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack Abbott: From the Belly of the Beast

"This Is It"

Meanwhile, New York City detectives continued to shadow Abbot's movements around the country. New York City Detective William J. Majeski, who was the lead investigator on the case, read Abbott's book and went through his F.B.I. file to search for clues on where the suspect might be headed. "I was trying to establish the kind of personality I was dealing with," he once told the press. "His book told me he was intelligent and well informed, but not about daily life on the outside... I didn't think he would change his physical appearance, he was much too proud for that." While he was on the run, Abbott continued to call his friends and ask for assistance.

Police received phone calls from people who thought they had spotted the elusive Abbott in places like Chicago, New Orleans and Texas. Some were bogus; other tips could not be verified. But this information corroborated other sources developed by investigators. Some of Abbott's contacts had agreed to cooperate with police and soon, police had a fairly good idea where he was headed and where he had been. One detective who worked on the case told reporters, "Abbott was getting desperate in recent weeks and was reaching out to all sorts of people."

In the City of New Orleans, Abbott worked as a hot dog vendor for several days. When police received this information, they staked out the location where Abbott was supposed to show up, but he never appeared. In Texas, U. S. Marshals missed him again when it was determined he had left the area some time before. Always, the police were a day or two behind. Several men, who fit the description of Abbott, or who had the name "Jack Eastman," were detained but eventually let go when it was determined they were telling the truth.

Morgan City, Louisiana map
Morgan City, Louisiana map

By early September, Abbott found himself in Morgan City, Louisiana, an oil boom town off route 90 in southern Louisiana. It was a massive complex of oil rigs, deep-well drilling and off shore machinery that operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Anyone could find work there with no problem. Employers had a "no questions asked" hiring policy and the labor ranks were often filled with men running from the law. "It's a good place for somebody to disappear, especially if you can get offshore work," one Louisiana police officer told the press. Abbott filled out an application with the Ramos Oil Field Service using the "Jack Eastman" name and was immediately hired. He was paid $4 and hour and worked 14 hours a day.

In the meantime, U.S. Marshals in New Orleans began calling local oil contractors asking them for help in locating Abbott, who according to Detective Majeski, would be using the "Jack Eastman" name. When they learned that Ramos had recently hired a transient worker named "Eastman," U.S. Marshals requested a photo of Abbott from New York City police. Morgan City detectives brought the photo to Ramos and supervisors immediately identified Abbott's photo as "Jack Eastman." Police jumped into their cars and sped out into the oil fields to find Abbott.

Jack Abbott escorted
Jack Abbott escorted

They located the fugitive loading trucks in a pipeline inspection yard. "They were wearing the company's red and white overalls," Abbott said in a later interview with reporters, "I thought they had come to push us around. I was thinking, well, what are you going to do?" Then one of the officers ordered Abbott to put his hands over his head.

"This is it, Jack!" he shouted. Abbott was taken into custody without a struggle. Later, on the way back to the St. Mary Parish jail in Franklin, Louisiana, a Morgan City police detective told Abbott that his book, In the Belly of the Beast, was selling well. "He was very stoned faced at first," Detective Robert Bazet told reporters after the arrest, "but when I mentioned that the book was a best seller, he perked right up. He said, 'You've got to be kidding!'"

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