Former Correction chief, Dallas’ 1986 Easter visitor offer alternate theories

The Statesman’s reporting reveals two other explanations for the Dallas escape: one, that an accomplice cut the fences from the outside; and two, that Dallas had help from prison officials who sliced the fences to allow him to escape.

Former Correction Director Al Murphy introduced one alternative theory for the first time in an interview last month.

“I don’t think Claude Dallas would have had time to cut it himself,” Murphy said. “I think somebody was in the parking lot, sliced the fence(s) and waited for him. I’ve always believed that.”

Another theory comes from the woman who visited Dallas the day he escaped. Geneva Holman of Reno says Dallas told her a correctional officer cut the two fences, allowing him to flee. She didn’t suggest a motive.

State investigators who spent 18 months reviewing the escape said they don’t find Murphy’s theory credible because any accomplice would have been in a “kill zone” subject to being shot by officers in towers.

They said they also don’t believe Holman’s account and found no credible evidence that a state employee helped Dallas.

Holman, along with her husband, Herb, raised almost $30,000 for Dallas’ defense on murder charges in 1982. She has remained close to Dallas.

Holman said she told investigators that prison officials helped Dallas get through the fence and made sure he had plenty of room. “The hole would be big enough to jump rope through,” she said, adopting investigators’ view of the improbability of Dallas cutting the fences. “Come on, if he was going to cut the holes, he’d cut a little hole and squeeze right through and run like hell.”

Gary Deulen, an investigator for the attorney general’s office, said Holman did not say anything during her interview about a prison employee cutting the fence. Deulen theorizes that she served as the “bait” in the escape, drawing police to pull over her 1970 silver Mercedes 280 SL north of Winnemucca, Nev. Police later impounded the car but found no evidence of Dallas.

Deulen said he believes that Herb Holman, who did not go into the visiting room on Easter 1986, was waiting outside and drove Dallas through Jackpot, Nev. Geneva Holman denied Deulen’s theory, as did Herb Holman. “That’s a bunch of crap,” said Herb Holman. “I was home right here in Reno in my own little bed.”

The Holmans are the only people who could face prosecution, because the statute of limitations has not expired against out-of-state residents, Deulen said.

Holman’s theory has support from one law enforcement veteran, Joe Munch, a former prison security chief. He later became an Ada County sheriff’s deputy and was on duty the night of the escape. Munch’s report said he arrived at the prison after hearing radio traffic about Dallas escaping. He reported being stonewalled. “The cooperation from the (penitentiary) staff was very poor, director, warden, captain and lieutenants all would or could not give us any good information!” Munch wrote on March 31, 1986.

“What really happened is he had help from one of the staff,” Munch told the Statesman. “And they covered it up.”

Former Ada County Sheriff Vaughn Killeen said there was “delayed notification” the night of the escape, but that isn’t necessarily a red flag because prison officials want to be sure an inmate is gone before reporting an escape.

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