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Deral Dean Ritter. Probably not a name you’ve heard before.
In 1986, Ritter was 34 years old, and he was living in Waurika, Oklahoma. In fact, he was living in the Jefferson County jail. He was serving a 7-month sentence. The crime that landed him there sounds kind of silly, by today’s standards. He was convicted of possession of marijuana. Medical cannabis is now legal in Oklahoma, and there’s currently a strong push for the legalization of recreational marijuana as well, so that’s probably going to happen at some point. But back in 1986, getting caught with a baggie of weed in your pocket meant you were going to spend some time in jail.
Well, Deral Dean Ritter was not happy about that, and he decided he was not going to stay. So he came up with an escape plan.
At the Jefferson County jail, the cell doors were electronic. At night, a guard could flip one centrally-located switch, and all the doors would lock automatically. Well, one night, before the cell doors were all locked for the night, Ritter jammed a wad of paper in his door, which prevented it from being locked. He also made up his bunk to make it look like someone was sleeping there, so the guards wouldn’t suspect anything when they made their rounds overnight. I know, this sounds like a plot to a really low-budget movie.
But Ritter’s plan actually worked. He was able to sneak out of his cell, and escape from the jail. Chances are he had been there a few times before this, so it helped that he knew the layout of the place. The next morning, he was discovered missing. Assistant District Attorney Glen Hammonds made a public statement to announce that they had an escapee, and that authorities were on the hunt for him.
Of course, he was soon captured and brought back to the jail to finish his sentence, with some more time added because of the escape. And you’d think that maybe after that he’d get things figured out and start making some smarter decisions about his life.
But 11 years later, he was back in the news. My guest today, Garrett, had an unexpected encounter with Deral Dean Ritter. And neither of them could have predicted how it would end.
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