A criminal who escaped from jail by climbing a rope made of dental floss says he failed in a similar escape two days earlier and inadvertently left his floss behind.
Robert Dale Shepard, 34, escaped from the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston on June 29, winning notoriety as a real-life Spiderman and 41 days of freedom.He spent most of the time in the woods, living off berries and bathing in rivers, until he was captured at gunpoint Tuesday after allegedly robbing a pharmacy near his hometown of Parkersburg.
Two days before his escape, he said, he braided dental floss into a rope and tried unsuccessfully to thread it through a fence capping a recreation yard.
"I couldn't get enough rope and it was left dangling and they found it," he said in a telephone interview Friday. "I figured they must know what's going on."
However, nothing happened.
Three jail employees were suspended after his second and successful attempt, in which he used 48 strands of mint-flavored, waxed dental floss braided to the thickness of a telephone cord to escape from another recreation yard.
He tied an AA battery to the rope and hurled it through a chain-link fence that capped 18-foot cinder block walls at the year-old, $12.5 million jail just outside Charleston.
"Once I put my weight on the rope, it was really hard to climb. I was cutting my fingers up after my weight was on it," he said. Prison officials say Shepard used a 3-inch-long hacksaw blade to cut through the fence.
"Getting up the rope was incredibly hard and once I got up, I was so tired, I could hardly saw the fence," he said. He refused to say how he got the blade but said he had no accomplice. The escape took about 20 minutes.
Shepard, 34, was awaiting trial on charges he robbed a post office. His record includes convictions for manslaughter and armed robbery.
He now also faces an escape charge and may face charges stemming from the robbery attempt, state police said. He is acting as his own attorney.
After the escape, Shepard was likened to Spiderman, the comic book hero who spins webs to hang from ceilings.
"The fact is they messed up. It could have been anyone," Shepard said. "I'm no super human."
Still, Shepard jokingly referred to himself as "Spiderman" when making a collect call Friday to The Associated Press.
Shepard planned the escape for days, bought two 100-yard packs of floss from the prison commissary and traded cigarettes for more floss from unsuspecting inmates. His rope took seven packs.
He used dental floss because it was readily available, easily concealed and strong enough to hold his 5-foot-9, 155-pound frame, he said.
Since his arrest, he has been kept in solitary confinement; he is shackled and handcuffed when he leaves his cell.
Jail authorities voted to install razor wire above recreational areas after Shepard's escape. They also stopped selling dental floss to inmates.