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50 years later, Alcatraz escapees' tale still captivates

Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 09:06

Former Alcatraz guard-turned-author George DeVincenzi, who was part of the panel Monday, said there was "no way" the men could have survived.

But the Anglins and Dyke disagree.

Anglin Widner noted that the raft and paddle had been found on Angel Island, not far from Alcatraz, with footsteps leading away from them. And, Dyke said, a Teletype and California Highway Patrol memo indicated that a car was stolen in Marin County that night by three men who later nearly ran a car off the road in the Central Valley.

Most notably, in December 1963, a third Anglin brother who was doing time in Alabama received the leather pouch that family members said Clarence had made at Alcatraz. According to Anglin Widner, brother Alfred told her during a visit that the pouch contained a message about the escapees' whereabouts. But by January 1964, Alfred was dead. Authorities said he was electrocuted while trying to escape. Anglin Widner believes he was beaten in an effort to get him to rat out his brothers.

The family is inclined to think Clarence and John made it to Brazil.

Even Dyke said it was possible.

About a month after the escape, a Norwegian freighter spotted a body wearing blue clothing floating near the Golden Gate Bridge, but the crew was unable to retrieve it. Dyke said he believes at least one or two bodies should have washed up if all three men had drowned. If only one did, he's betting it was Morris, "because the brothers definitely would have saved each other."

Dyke keeps his active tips to himself, but on Monday he rattled off some of the dead-enders: There was the man who called in 2005 to insist that John Anglin had just left his job at a Philadelphia deli to run a restaurant in a small town in Delaware. (Dyke visited the man and fingerprinted him. No match.) Then there was the lead from the Bahamas that a gentleman who died in 2009 was Clarence Anglin. Photos from the funeral were promising, but an analysis of the man's facial geometry indicated that his eyes were too far apart. Interpol checked prints on file. It wasn't him.

The escape may have hastened the closure of Alcatraz, which federal authorities had planned to shutter. By 1962, the concrete was cracking and the metal catwalks were rusting. The National Park Service now operates the facility as a historical site and tourist attraction. To park spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet, Monday's dueling voices are a part of the story.

"It's a mystery," she said. "Everyone can create their own reality around it."

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