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True Crime in 1831, Part 11 - A Daring Escape

The governor of Pennsylvania, having received authentic information following the examination of William's body confirming that he had died of poison, issued a proclamation for Lucretia's arrest. However, she had fled Andalusia, leaving her children at home under the charge of her relatives. A reward of $150 was offered for her arrest if she was taken within the limits of the country, or $300 dollars if apprehended elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Lino was initially confined in the Philadelphia prison. Blayney allegedly came with an offer on behalf of the mayor of the city to release him instantly, if he would testify to Lucretia's guilt. Lino again denied knowing any particulars about William's death, and this assertion he repeated, not only to Blayney but also to the mayor himself. In a few days Lino was removed to the jail at Doylestown, by Benjamin Morris, the Sheriff of Bucks County.

At the time of his transfer from Philadelphia, and for some days afterwards, he was heavily loaded with irons. It was soon found advisable to relieve him from the principal part of them, leaving him firmly secured by an iron chain about four feet in length, of which one end was fastened to his ankle, the other fixed to the floor near the center of his cell. He was accommodated with a fire upon the hearth, a bench, a bed upon a low post bedstead, two or three books in Spanish or English, and a trunk containing his clothes.

The prison at Doylestown consisted of an oblong front building, to which were attached two wings, standing at the rear of the former, opposite each other, leaving a square recess between; three sides of the square defined by the buildings, the fourth side by the prison wall. In the center was the prison yard. The two wings were allotted to the prisoners. They were two stories high and divided above and below by hallways, having communication with cells arrayed on either side. In the left wing, to the left of the passage on the first floor was the cell appropriated to Lino. The windows of that room were strongly guarded with iron bars. The entrance had two doors, of which the inner was a heavy wooden structure, secured on the outside by a hook; the outer door was of iron, with a projecting arm fastened by a padlock to a staple in the wall. Considering that, in addition to these formidable securities, Lino was chained down to the floor and that, if he had passed the threshold of the cell, he still had to work his way of that part of the building in which he was confined before he could reach the yard. Even then, he still had a wall to climb or a massive padlock to demolish. It may well be believed that nothing but practiced cunning, joined to reckless determination, could have accomplished the liberation of the contriver.

Lino found means to secure a table knife, probably afforded him at his meals. He then converted the knife into a saw, with which the rivet of the shackle around his ankle was cut off. He concealed the cut by winding a cloth or rag around the iron, under the pretense that it rubbed against his ankle, making it sore. His next step was to burn a hole in the oak plank floor in his room, which he accomplished, but found underneath a bed of masonry, sufficient to forbid any idea of escape in that way. He concealed the breach with his trunk. It became necessary now to adopt another course.

On Sunday night, 6 November 1831, at about ten o'clock, Sheriff Morris went through the prison on a round of examination to see that all was safe. Finding everything in order, he retired to his own part of the prison. Soon afterwards Lino commenced operations.

He slipped off his shackle and set to work. His first order of business was to open the two doors of his room, the first of which was of wood and was hooked on the outside. There was a small hole over the latch, probably penetrated by himself. Through this he inserted a string, putting it through until the end dropped to the floor outside. The other end of the string was secured at the hole by a small stick. With another stick or piece of straw he drew the string under the door and then worked it along the the bottom of the door and up the side. Then, with a jerk, he threw up the hook outside. This admirable contrivance brought him to the iron door. This barrier was removed, it would seem, but putting his hand through the grate and wrenching off the padlock with the handle of the knife. He had then come to the entry.

On the opposite side of that passage was a long room, furnished with a stove, in which the prisoners usually sat during the day. The door of the room not being fastened, Lino entered and, having procured fire, either from the stove or hearth, he applied it to the pine floor. He also heated several pokers and pierced the boards to facilitate the process. While this was slowly going on, Lino went to liberate William Brown, a prisoner confined on a charge of larceny. Lino had chosen this able-bodied man as his accomplice. The padlock was twisted, the wooden door unfastened and Brown, ironed and hand-cuffed, brought out. The handcuffs were readily dispensed with, but the irons were stubborn and had to be left on his person, concealed beneath his pants. Lino's sheets and bed ticking were transformed into a rope. He bundled all of his clothing up with arm holes so that it resembled a peddler's pack.

The two were engaged nearly all night in making the breach through the floor. When it was complete, both prisoners, with rope and pack, safely descended into the cellar. When they tried the doors, they found them slightly bolted. Lino undid the bolts and got into the large open prison yard. They had planned to scale the wall by means of the rope which had been manufactured for this purpose. After repeated tries, they found it to be entirely out of the question. They were almost to the point of abandoning their plan until they discovered an axe lying in the yard. Now, being driven to the extreme last resort, they decided upon the desperate experiment of chopping off the great lock which secured the door to the prison yard.

Brown, being the stronger of the two, undertook the task. He set to work, dealing his blows with an athletic vigor that caused the buildings to reverberate with thundering noise. The alarm was soon given as the awakened prisoners watched the bold undertaking from their windows. They simultaneously shouted and called upon the jailer. The Sheriff, with one or two of the jailer's family, came forth into the piazza which opened into the yard just as the last blows of the axe were dealt with redoubled energy. The door had a bar and lock on each side, so that when the inner lock came off, it created only a slight opening through which the prisoners managed to squeeze their way through with some difficulty. The Sheriff, who was of a portly frame, was effectually precluded from following suit. His only way to get out of the prison was by returning through the front doors.

The two got to the highway. For each other's safety, they separated, heading in different directions. In the hurry of the moment of escape, Lino left behind his bundle and one shoe. It was now daybreak.

The alarm was immediately given through the town. The citizens were roused from their slumbers and the woods and fields were scoured for some miles round. Hand bills offering a reward of fifty dollars for Lino's apprehension were printed and circulated. About three hundred people were engaged in his pursuit. About nine o'clock of that same morning Brown was discovered hidden under a pile of bark in the woods about one mile northwest of Doylestown and marched back to his old quarters. Since he still had the chains on his legs, they proved to be a great impediment to his flight, hampering his progress so as to be unable to make much headway.

Lino kept to the woods as much as possible, ignorant of the country, but hoping to reach Philadelphia. At length his bare foot blistered since he had been forced to leave a shoe and clothing pack behind at the prison gate. At about four o'clock in the afternoon he arrived at Abel H. James' tavern in Hilltown, on the Philadelphia and Bethlehem Turnpike, about seven miles from Doylestown. Little did Lino suspect that the intelligence of his escape had spread quickly and in every direction. He first stopped at a quarry near the tavern where several men were at work. He stated that he was Chinese and wanted to buy an old pair of shoes. He was directed to a house where he went and made the same appeal to Major J.O. James. It so happened that at the same time, a gentleman residing in that township was there, relating the news of Lino's escape and, upon seeing the stranger, intimated his apprehensions that this was probably that very man. Major James immediately confronted him with the charge. Without the least change of countenance except for a smile, Lino denied his identity, expressed his entire willingness to be taken to Doylestown for, when they got there, he said, they would find they were mistaken. There was, however, scarcely a doubt upon the mind of the gentlemen who interrogated him and, calling his bluff, they decided to take him back to Doylestown.

Lino was accordingly seated in a wagon between Major James and another gentleman, and in this style, made his re-entry on the evening of the same day, into Doylestown. On the way he talked much about this Lino to the two men; he was either acquainted with him or had heard much about him; said that the name Lino was assumed; that the newspapers had printed falsehoods in relation to his case; and many other similar matters. When within a half mile of the town Major James suggested that perhaps it would be best to stop at one of the public houses, with a view to ascertain whether they had mistaken their man. At that point the stranger admitted to them that he was in fact Lino and that they "may as well drive on to the jail."

Crowds of people witnessed Lino's return to prison. He appeared to be in very good humor, laughing and talking to the bystanders. He was returned to his former room but the bedstead and bench were removed. His person was secured beyond the reach of the fire in the hearth.

While Lino was busy escaping in Doylestown, the hunt for Lucretia was well underway. Constable Blayney, being made acquainted with the governor's proclamation, immediately proceeded his quest for her. He went in pursuit of her to Syracuse, New York, where it was believed she had fled, possibly on her way to Canada. The person who eventually found her was Joel Bardwell, of Grove, Allegany County, New York. He was one of the agents employed by Constable Blayney. Bardwell tracked her from Grove, through the western part of New York to North East in Erie County, PA. Her luck finally ran out when, on 11 November, she was arrested. She had been employed as a governess, instructing the children of the Newtons, a very respectable family in that area.

She was taken before Squire Shaw and committed to prison. On being interrogated, she said her name was Lucretia Chapman. She was described as being large in person, with a strongly marked and rather forbidding countenance. When asked if she was at present a married woman, she declined answering any further questions in the absence of her counsel, who she named as David Paul Brown of Philadelphia. She remained in the Erie jail until 5 December when Mr. Thomas Mabaffy arrived to escort her the almost 500 miles back to Philadelphia.


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