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Dec. 23-25, 1987 – “Squeaky” Fromme Escapes From Federal Prison In Alderson
By Heath Harrison
August 11, 2013


More than 100 state and federal law officers canceled their Christmas plans and spent the lead-up to the holiday in 1987 combing Greenbrier and Monroe counties and the surrounding area in a search for an attempted presidential assassin and follower of notorious killer Charles Manson.

A former child performer who had appeared on the Lawrence Welk Show, Alice Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme first encountered Manson at the age of 19 after dropping out of junior college. She was invited to travel the country with him and moved in with the Manson “Family” at Spahn Ranch following the trip.

While one of Manson’s most dedicated followers, she played no part in the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and four others that led to his life sentence to prison.

On Sept. 5, 1975, Fromme, dressed in a red robe and carrying a Colt M1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol, approached President Gerald Ford at Capitol Park in Sacramento, Calif. She pointed the gun, which was loaded with four rounds, but had no bullet in the firing chamber, at the president and was immediately restrained by Secret Service agents.

Following a drawn-out trial, Fromme was convicted for the attempted assassination of the president and sentenced to life in prison. She was sent to the Federal Correctional Institution, in Dublin, Calif., where she was transferred out after attacking another inmate. She was sent to the Federal Prison Camp, in Alderson, W.Va. in 1979.

On Dec. 23, 1987, Fromme escaped the Greenbrier County facility by climbing an 8-foot-high fence and evading the prison’s patrols.

Her escape was first noticed during the evening prisoner count, and surprised prison officials, who said, up to that point, she had caused no problems during her incarceration in Alderson. As an inmate, she had been working in maintenance at the facility, washing floors and doing minor repairs.

Following a thorough search to make sure she was not hiding within the prison, the U.S. Marshals Service was brought in to lead to search for Fromme. Unsure of the motivation behind her escape, law enforcement could only speculate on which direction she was headed.

Federal agents and police with tracking dogs covered the area near the prison, as a nationwide alert was issued and supposed sightings of Fromme were reported from as far away as Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

Shortly after noon on Christmas Day, two guards spotted Fromme near a fishing camp on the Greenbrier River, only two miles south of the prison.

The guards drove up and ordered her to get in their vehicle. Tired and wet from two days of wondering in the rain, she surrendered without incident and was taken back to the prison.

It turned out that Fromme, hearing a false report that Manson was suffering from testicular cancer, had hoped to hitchhike to California to visit him. Her plan, if one even existed, to gain access to him in a maximum security prison was unclear.

Fromme was transferred from Alderson to the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. She was released on parole in Aug. 14, 2009. (She was granted parole in 2008, but was held an additional year due to the 1987 escape attempt).

She moved to New York and, now 64, has remained out of the public eye since her release.

This week’s video, courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives at the Culture Center, consists of a few WCHS reports from the time of the search. The first is a report by Bob Aaron on the escape. This is followed by a segment, in which an earlier interview with Fromme at the prison (by Alan Cohen) was re-aired during the hunt. Third, we see another report from Aaron on her capture, followed by some file footage of Fromme's return to the prison.

Remember When: Dec. 23-25, 1987 – “Squeaky” Fromme Escapes From Federal Prison In Alderson

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