There’s nothing more fascinating than a true crime story filled with drama, romance, a high-speed car chase, and murder. And John Manard’s prison escape checked all the boxes. Dateline NBC dives deep into how John escaped and where he is now in exclusive interviews with his ex-lover, Toby Dorr.
What happened to John Manard is actually a pretty wild story.
Manard was serving a life sentence at Lansing Correctional Facility for a 1996 fatal carjacking in Overland Park. He was only 17 years old at the time of his crime and has since admitted that he regrets it. But some people think Manard was as manipulative as serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.
While in prison, a romance blossomed between Manard and Toby Dorr, who at that time was the head of the prison’s dog training program. Together, they concocted a plan to get Manard out of the facility. As Dorr reflects now on the experience, she admits that he could have sensed her need for love and manipulated her to get out of prison, but she still thinks that he really did care about her.
Over the course of a few months, Manard lost 25 pounds so that he could fit inside one of the dog crates, which was then loaded onto Dorr’s white cargo van.
Dorr drove Manard off the prison property without a problem, and the couple escaped to a Tennessee cabin in the woods in which authorities later found, “Books, sex toys, a blue parakeet, a guitar, and sheet music to the jailbreak film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
John Manard was eventually caught, but not before giving the authorities some trouble.
One of the pieces of this tale that makes it so incredible is its bombshell ending. Once U.S. Marshals spotted Manard and Dorr while they were out in the Chattanooga area, the couple lost control of the situation. They were simply seeing a movie and shopping but had to quickly improvise to make a getaway.
Manard and Dorr hopped in a car and fled the authorities in what would become one of the most notorious high-speed car chases of all time. The chase went on for 60 miles on an interstate highway.
Eventually, the couple lost control and crashed into a tree. Both Dorr and Manard were arrested. Manard was caught. Dorr was booked for 21 months in a Houston prison for her role in the escape, and when she got out, she settled back down and married in Kansas City.
So where is John Manard now?
Dorr was only sentenced to 21 months, but Manard was not quite as lucky. On top of his existing life sentence, he then faced new federal charges for his prison escape, and another 10 years were added to his sentence. Although news outlets reported that he was a master manipulator, Manard denied this in a letter to the Kansas City Star.
Manard wrote, “I loved Toby and was 100 percent committed to her… 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.”
In 2018, Manard met Toby's new husband, Chris Dorr, when the couple came to visit him in prison. After the visit, he wrote again to the Star, “[Dorr] has a good and loving man for a husband whom I like a lot. Chris is a good man.”
Manard is still behind bars, reportedly in a New Hampshire facility, and likely will be for life.
Tune into Dateline NBC on June 11 at 10 p.m. EST on NBC to dive deeper into the infamous escape.