Escape Artist Lamar Fountain Caught Again

Lamar Fountain, Ray City, GA

Lamar Fountain, Ray City, GA

Lamar Fountain

From 1968 to 1975 Lamar Fountain escaped from area jails six times to return to his friends and family at Ray City, GA. Berrien county sheriff Walter J. Gaskins composed the Ballad of Lamar Fountain to tell the story of this extraordinary escape artist. Fountain once told his jailor, “When I’m in jail, I feel like there’s a 200-pound weight on me. When I get out I feel free.”

A 1975 Newsweek article described Fountain thus, “The son of a poor but respectable Ray City family, Fountain dropped out of school early on and began running with a rowdy crowd in nearby Valdosta; later he did odd jobs driving pickups and got into a series of minor scrapes in Georgia and Florida, including a couple of rape charges that were later dropped. ‘It wasn’t rape at all,’ he maintained. ‘I got caught in bed with another man’s wife.’ Mostly his problems were just drunken brawls, and no serious charges ever stuck.”

That was until 1968 when a woman accused him of a $20 theft. When Fountain was stopped by police, he had a wallet that belonged to another man. With Fountain in jail, the authorities found he was also wanted for forging checks. Unable to provide bail, and after languishing for months behind bars waiting for arraignment before a grand jury, Lamar Fountain escaped from the Valdosta jail.

When he was apprehended, the charge of escape was added to the pending charges for theft of the wallet, the $20, and the check forgery. Lamar plead guilty and was was sentenced to more than 20 years. But all too often, Fountain was able to break away from his jailors and make his way back to “the ramshackle Kent’s Grocery in Ray City and boast to loyal neighbors about his exploits.”

The Florence Times
November 13, 1974

Escape Artist Caught Again.

      RAY CITY, Ga. – Two officers hid among the thickets, watching the marsh below. After 40 minutes, they saw a flicker of light.
They waited until a car passed on the rural highway, then advanced several feet and stopped, afraid to scare off their elusive prey. Each time a car went by, they moved a little closer.
      Finally they were only 15 feet away. Chief Deputy Robert Swanson stood up, shone his flashlight and identified himself as a Berrien County Police Officer.
“Y’all got me, just don’t shoot,” said the heavily bearded man, putting down his fishing pole and flash light, taped over to dim the light.
      And so Sunday night ended the latest escape in the remarkable career of Lamar Fountain.
     Seventy-eight days before, Fountain
, 54, had escaped from Thomas County jail. It was his third escape of the summer and sixth since 1968 when he first was arrested on three minor theft charges – a $37 bad check charge an two alleged thefts of $5 and $20.
    During previous escapes, Fountain had traveled to California and New Jersey. But he had been homesick and had trouble getting jobs without revealing his telltale Social Security number, so he returned each time to south Georgia where relatives could help him, and where, each time, he was caught.

      This time Fountain never left the swamplands around his native Ray City and Swanson said, “lots of folks said we wold never catch him.”
     
In fact, authorities said, many local residents aided the escapee.
      But Swanson knew the area well from his own duck hunting trips and some residents helped by calling the sheriff’s office each time they spotted Fountain, allowing officers to keep trak of his approximate location.
      Swanson said Fountain had been living in a small shelter in the woods, made of cyprus poles and insulated with linoleum and moss. Inside were a makeshift bunk, jugs of fresh water and cooking utensils.
      Fountain was sentenced in 1969 to 20 years for the three thefts and his first escape. He faces additional time for each of his five subsequent escapes.
      Wearing a two-inch beard and suffering from a cold, Fountain said yesterday that he just wants to go home to his native Ray City to raise cattle and hogs.
      “I want out. I’ve never done anything wrong except when I was drunk. But I don’t drink anymore. My body just can’t stand it.
      “I hope some people will get involved in my case and give me another chance. I’ve served six years already. That’s long enough for a $5 theft.”
       Fountain declined to reveal the tricks he used to elude search parties and bloodhounds. “I may need to use them again,” he said.

Lamar Fountain Captured at Ray City, GA on Nov 10, 1974.

Lamar Fountain Captured at Ray City, GA on Nov 10, 1974.

 
 
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