A woman who helped a convicted murderer she had fallen in love with escape a maximum-security prison two days before Valentine’s Day 2006 says she “was surprised at how easy it was.”
Toby Dorr, formerly Toby Young, then 48, pleaded guilty in 2006 to helping John Maynard, 28, escape from the Lansing Correctional Facility in Leavenworth Kansas, as well as to knowingly providing a firearm to a felon, according to a new account of the prison break published on Friday by the Kansas City Star.
It started in 2004, according to the report, when Dorr survived cancer and decided to dedicate her life to a cause: starting a volunteer rehabilitative dog program that paired rescued canines with prisoners. The program was a success -- saving 1,000 dogs in 18 months -- and Dorr, more or less, was given free run about the prison to administer the program.
Dorr met Maynard in October 2005, after she was threatened by a prisoner. Her contact in the warden’s office assigned Maynard to be her “escort,” she told the Star, accompanying her around the facility as her personal, 6-foot, 2-inch-tall red-haired bodyguard. That's when the two realized they saw the world alike, and fell in love.
“Sometimes I’d say to somebody, ‘What does red taste like?’” Dorr said. “They’d look at me like, ‘What are you talking about?’ But I said to John Maynard once, ‘What does red taste like?’ and he said, ‘It tastes like cinnamon and it’s spicy and it smells. It fills your whole head with the smell.’”
Although she was married at the time, the marriage was broken, Dorr said.
“I think at that point in my life, I was just desperate to be loved, to feel like somebody loved me,” Dorr said. “Maybe John was wearing his inmate hat and he was perceptive enough to notice a need in me and capitalized on it. But I do think that he cared for me.
“I do think that John Maynard loved me to the best of his ability to love anybody at that time. Because he was pretty broken, too.”
Maynard was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder for his role in a fatal 1996 carjacking, according to the Star. In a letter Maynard wrote the newspaper in response to an inquiry for its article, he said he was a “17-year-old child” at the time of the murder, and called it “a huge mistake.”
About Dorr, Maynard wrote: “I loved Toby and was 100 percent committed to her. I’ve always been given the role of the ‘master manipulating, scumbag criminal with no morals’ and Toby the, ‘poor manipulated, naive, gullible, depressed, desperate, good girl,’ that I took advantage of.
“Why did I stay with her once I was out if I was just manipulating? I NEVER manipulated her in the least! I loved Toby with all that I was.”
Then, one day that winter, Maynard asked Dorr if she would be with him if he weren’t in prison, and she replied that she might.
“To him that meant, yes, let’s escape, and to me it just meant yes, I might be with you if you were out of prison,” Dorr explained. “So he started thinking of things and planning in his head and then by the time he shared with me what he already had planned, I was kind of desperate to do something different myself.”
Part of Dorr’s job involved taking dogs out of the prison once they had been re-trained and adopted. When she did this, she noticed, guards failed to search the crates containing the dogs, and rarely scrutinized her as she left the prison in a van.
Maynard lost 25 pounds, and on February 12, 2006 hid in a dog carrier as Dorr drove her van through the prison gates to freedom.
“The whole time I was driving between gate two and gate one, [I was thinking] that the sirens were gonna go off, and they were gonna come running, and I was trying to think of what I was gonna say, and they opened gate one, and I drove out,” Dorr said.
The two drove to a storage facility where they swapped out the van for a pre-placed pick-up truck, which the two used to drive to Tennessee.
There, they hid out in a remote cabin for 12 days, where police would later find novels, sex toys, two handguns, $25,000 cash, a blue parakeet, a guitar, materials to forge identification papers and sheet music to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” the Coen Brothers’ jail-break film.
Their luck ran out when Maynard grew restless and wanted to explore the world he hadn’t seen since being imprisoned at 19. They drove to Chattanooga, took in an IMAX movie, did some shopping at a Sears and patronized a Barnes & Noble, where Maynard bought Dorr “Where the Red Fern Grows,” a classic boy-meets-dog novel.
On their way out of the book store, the fugitives passed police.
“Believe it or not, the two -- Young and Maynard -- walked out of a Barnes and Noble store at the mall where the deputies,” led to the area by a tip, “were attempting to set up a rally point,” Ray Stewart, an officer with the U.S Marshall’s Service and head of the Federal Fugitive Task Force searching for them said at the time, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.
The two then got in the pick-up truck and drove away. “As the vehicle drove past” the assembling law enforcement officers, Stewart added, police “noticed that that’s the vehicle that actually they were going to be attempting to find.”
The chance encounter lead to a 60-mile chase down a nearby interstate. As police closed in, Maynard, who was driving, tried to escape, but crashed into a tree. Dorr blacked out.
When she came to, an officer pulled her out of the wreckage and threw her to the ground. There, she heard Maynard calling her name. Looking up, she saw her lover, handcuffed, approaching her -- dragging a gaggle of police officers behind him. A spotlight from a helicopter shined and backlit Maynard, outlining his tall figure in the night.
“It looked like he had this halo of light around him,” Dorr said. “And then he was gone. And that was the last time I saw him.”
Dorr’s husband divorced her and she spent 27 months in prison, serving concurrent federal and state sentences. Maynard had 10 years added to his life sentence. The Safe Harbour Prison Dog program is still operating at the prison. Dorr is working on a memoir about her experience. The working title: "Unleashed."
[Photos: Kansas Dept of Corrections]