May 1951: An outlaw’s big adventure
Andrew Kaczynski’s romp of freedom lasted exactly four weeks. It began on a warm afternoon in early May 1951, when Kaczynski and four other prisoners at Western Penitentiary overpowered a 78-year-old guard, shimmied up a pipe, then climbed a workman’s ladder to the prison roof.
There, the prisoners used a rope made of strips from a mattress cover to lower themselves 60 feet to the ground. That was the plan, anyway. Kaczysnki went first. When he hit the ground, he took off running. He was spotted by a state police trooper driving out of the prison grounds. The trooper turned on his siren.
This alarmed one of the other escapees, James “Mojo” Woods, a member of the notorious zoot-suit gang that preyed on motorcyclists stopped at red lights. Woods was halfway down the rope. Startled by the alarm, he lost his grip, fell to the ground and was knocked unconscious.
The three other prisoners never left the roof. Kaczynski, a safe-cracker serving a 36-year term, got away.
The next day, he showed up at a Downtown hotel restaurant to see his wife, a 19-year-old waitress named Rose. Unfortunately, she was off-duty. An unrepentant romantic, the 34-year-old Kaczynski handed a cigarette lighter to a co-worker and asked her to give it to Rose. “I probably won’t see her again,” he said. He walked out the door and disappeared down the street.
Kaczynski remained free throughout May. Then, late in the month, police received an anonymous tip that he was hiding out in his sister’s Lawrenceville home. As they prepared to enter the house, police saw Kaczynski peering from a bathroom window on the second floor. They instantly recognized him. Kaczynski had an unforgettable face. His police mug shot elevates the scowl to an art form. It’s the the Mona Lisa of crime.
Police rushed inside with guns drawn and stormed to the upper floor. Kaczynski flung open a window, climbed onto the roof, jumped eight feet to the porch roof of the home next door, then made a running jump into a vacant lot.
As he dashed through an alley, officers opened fire. Kaczynski staggered momentarily before crashing through a fence and darting out of sight through a maze of alleys.
Police set up roadblocks and descended on the Lawrenceville homes of Kaczynski’s relatives.
The search narrowed on his sister-in-law’s house on Mulberry Way. A squad of 20 policemen surrounded the house while Inspector Michael Daugherty and a handful of officers made their way inside.
They found Kaczynski “cowering under a bed on the second floor,” reported The Pittsburgh Press.
“When he refused to come out, inspector Daugherty grabbed his legs and a patrolman grabbed his arms. In pulling him out, they upset the bed.”
Blood seeped from gunshot wounds in Kaczynski’s knees.
Soon he was hauled before a judge. Assistant District Attorney Samuel Strauss called Kaczynski “a hardened criminal — perhaps the worst ever before us.”
Then he reminded the court that Kaczynski had tried to escape from the county jail in 1950 by sawing through jail bars.
“That was a frame-up,” Kaczynski snarled.
Then Strauss reminded Kazcynski that he’d been found with a saw blade in his shoe.
For his four weeks of freedom, Kazcynski drew 10 to 20 years.
Top picture: Andrew Kaczynski, center, with his captors Inspector Michael Daugherty, left, and detective Roy Kitterman. (Pittsburgh Press photo)