There’s no one like an escaped convict to terrify us all out of our socks, and Larry Chism is the longest-lasting escapee to still be on the run from the law. Chism’s story, featured on America’s Most Wanted, includes multiple prison escapes, bank robberies, a drug ring, identity theft, and more.
It’s easy to become encapsulated by the criminals who are so charming that they evade all vitriol, and Larry Chism is one of those criminals. Like many other enigmatic criminals, Chism is one of those friendly, seemingly normal guys, who somehow is able to evade the law. The only difference is that Larry Chism has evaded it longer than anyone else. So, what happened to him?
No one knows the full story of what happened to Larry Chism.
Larry Chism is still on the run from the law. He has been escaped since 1978, which is the longest any fugitive has been evading authorities while on the U.S. Marshals Most Wanted List. He was originally imprisoned for bank robbery and a drug ring that he turned out to be leading while in college at Memphis State University.
Since his second escape in 1978, it is believed that he robbed a bank of $250,000, which is how he is surviving. In 1985, AP News reported that Chism had been indicted by bystander and hostage reports comparing his mugshot to the bank robber, but since he was still on the run, there’s no way of knowing if it was really him.
Chism had a major network of friends and helpers due to his charismatic and normal-seeming nature. On the outside, he seemed like a nice bookish man with charm, although not too much charm that he came off suspiciously in any way. He just seemed normal, which is why he supposedly walked out of the First National Bank after robbing it and blended right in with the crowd on the street.
Since then, Chism has walked somewhat freely, although always on the run. His charm attracted several lovers throughout the years, and he was smart enough to take on multiple identities. When the FBI was able to search a trailer that Chism’s ex-girlfriend showed them, they discovered that he had gone so far as to call families of deceased children to try to gain information to steal their identities.
After he was featured in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries in 1990, Chism knew he had to run once again out of fear that the life he built as Kenneth Brookins with his new wife, Debra Brookins, and her daughters would fall apart. Their friends or pastor could recognize him and turn them in. They haven't been seen since. Maybe the new episode of America's Most Wanted will reinvigorate a civilian to discover Larry Chism.
Larry Chism orchestrated multiple prison escapes over the years.
The thing that makes Chism so infamous is his ability to evade the law at all costs. While his crimes that got him into prison were punishable and harmful, they weren’t violent. However, to get out of prison, Chism had to be more violent than what was expected. He was able to do this by flipping the expectations of him on their head.
While in prison, he worked the prison guards to think he was a decent guy who just happened to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. He eventually was allowed onto a heavily guarded excursion to a Bowl-A-Rena in Dickson, Tenn. He coordinated with an old university friend, who planted shotguns in the Bowl-A-Rena’s bathroom earlier that day.
Chism and three of his fellow inmates had a plan to use those shotguns to gun down the armed guards and escape. They took an employee of the bowling alley hostage and hotwired a car to drive to a municipal airport, where they threatened a pilot into flying them out of town. The plane had to make an emergency landing, and the men were able to continue on foot. None of Chism’s hostages were ever harmed.
Larry Chism’s second escape is the one that has many still asking questions.
Chism was found only four days after his initial prison breakout, and was put into the custody of the Lonoke County Jail in Arkansas after a high speed car chase resulted in Chism’s capture. However, in December 1978, while awaiting where he would be placed permanently, Chism orchestrated another escape plan with some fellow convicts.
Using a wrench, they opened up an air conditioning vent, grabbed some keys, and snuck out of the jailhouse. They went on the run in the guard’s car, and no one noticed they were gone for hours. Everyone else was eventually captured, but Larry Chism is still on the run.
Watch America’s Most Wanted on FOX, Mondays at 9 p.m. ET, to find out more to Larry Chism's story.