In this installment we are going to take a look at the 10 largest manhunts ever organized. From an angry former police officer seeking retribution, to the most infamous crime duo, Bonnie and Clyde; these manhunts had the public on high alert and detectives hot on their tails.
Osama Bin Laden
On May 1st, 2011 a special task force, known as SEAL Team 6, were sent to capture Osama bin Laden on the Pakistan border. The CIA had discovered new information after years of slow progress and little known about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. There were few clues and leads to follow that some officials even presumed him dead. The hunt began in 1998 after simultaneous bombings at US embassies in Africa that killed hundreds. After the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 believed to have been masterminded by al-Qaeda and bin Laden, the manhunt intensified. The SEALS entered bin Laden’s house and encountered wives, children, booby traps and enemy fire. Upon reaching the third floor, bin Laden was discovered, this is when a Navy SEAL opened fire and reportedly shot the senior al-Qaeda militant in the chest. He radioed “Geronimo E.K.I.A,” meaning enemy killed in action.
The Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer terrorized northern California around the San Francisco Bay area during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The killer still remains unidentified after forty some years after the murders of High school students Betty Lou Jenson and David Faraday. Police believe he is responsible for seven murders though he claims thirty seven in coded letters he wrote to the Bay Area media. His letters heightened fear in the area and he also threatened school children claiming to be collecting slaves. He continued to play with the media through 1974, providing investigators with senseless material. In 2007, the producer of the film “Zodiac” discovered police files not tested for DNA. A book written in 2014 by Gary L. Stewart “The Most Dangerous Animal of All”, claims his biological father Earl Van Best Jr. was the Zodiac Killer. The man is dead, though a police sketch resembles the picture of Gary Stewart’s biological father. Stewart was adopted but searched over a decade for his biological father. The search is ongoing and continues to be one of the longest running manhunts.
Eric Robert Rudolph
Eric Robert Rudolph, known as the Olympic Park Bomber, was responsible for a series of bombings across the southern United States that occurred between 1996 and 1998, killing two people and injuring 111. At age 29, Rudolph was the lone perpetrator of the Centennial Olympic Park bombings in Atlanta, Georgia on July 27th, 1996 during the summer Olympic Games. Rudolph’s reason for the bombing, according to a statement in 2005, was political, and also confessed to two other bombings. On May 5th, 1998 he became a fugitive and a one million dollar reward was offered for information leading to his arrest. On May 31st, 2003 Rudolph was arrested in North Carolina. He lived as a fugitive by camping in the woods, eating acorns, salamanders, raiding dumpsters, vegetable gardens and stealing grain from grain silos. He was sentenced on July 18th, 2005 to two consecutive life terms without parole and received two additional life sentences for various bombings in Atlanta.
Born September 3rd, 1929, Joseph Bulger was Boston’s most notorious gangster who was convicted of nineteen murders and mob crimes, but also worked with the FBI. He is the brother of former President of Massachusetts Senate, Billy Bulger. In 1975, Joseph was working with the FBI as an informant, ratting on his rivals in exchange for protection. As an FBI informant, his dealings with organized crime was mostly ignored until the New England media exposed his ties to criminal actions by federal, state and local law enforcements. After being tipped off by a former FBI handler about a pending Indictment under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Act, Bulger fled Boston and vanished for sixteen years. For twelve of those years he was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, only second behind Osama Bin Laden. On June 22nd, 2011, Bulger along with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig, was arrested in Santa Monica California. In the summer of 2012, Bulger went on trial for thirty two counts of racketeering, money-laundering, extortion, weapons charges and complicity in nineteen murders. Bulger was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus five years on November 14th, 2013.
Manuel Noriega is a controversial figure. Though he was relied upon by U.S. Intelligence agencies, he also was not a close friend. He counted terrorists as friends, armed Marxist rebels and passed classified information to Warsaw Pact States. Two United States Grand juries indicted him on February 4th, 1988 on drug trafficking charges. Noriega responded with a campaign to harass US military persons and dependents stationed in Panama. Two years later he declared war against the United States. The next evening, Panamanian soldiers opened fire on four off duty American officers, killing a Marine lieutenant and also detained and abused a navy lieutenant and his wife. Later, a Navy SEAL team planted explosives on boats and Noriega’s personal Learjet. On December 21st, 1989, little more than one day after the early attacks, President Bush acknowledged US forces success but wished to see Noriega brought to justice. Christmas Eve, an exhausted Noriega sought asylum at the Papal Nunciature, the Vatican Embassy. US forces later seized the Embassy. Shortly after the New Year, on January 3rd, 1990, Noriega was on a plane headed to Miami, Florida where a prison cell awaited him.
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, better known as the notorious crime couple, Bonnie and Clyde, were ambushed and killed by Louisiana police in 1934. They were killed instantly when the car they were driving spun out of control in the mayhem of the ambush. Their crime legacy captured the American public’s eye due to their bold moves and unlikely male, female partnership. Their capture was brought about by the help of a former associate who was enlisted by the police to help them trap the notorious crime couple. They were lured into a trap and as their car encroached forward they were ambushed by police. The car they were driving was jolted and sped off the roadway. Both Bonnie and Clyde were pronounced dead at the scene. The couple was wanted for murder, multiple robberies, and kidnapping.
Theodore Robert Bundy
Ted Bundy, one of the most infamous and notorious serial killers in American history, murdered an average of one woman per month between January 1974 and February 1978. He was arrested in August of 1975 after being pulled over by police. Officers found an ice pick, handcuffs, and pantyhose in his car. He was extradited to Colorado where he faced multiple other criminal charges. Before standing trial, he leapt from a window in the courthouse library and was on the run for six days before being recaptured. Bundy did not stay in custody for long; six months after arriving in a Colorado jail, he escaped and eluded authorities again. He lost thirty pounds, and successfully made his smaller frame fit in the light fixture hole in the ceiling of his cell. He escaped once again and made his way to Tallahassee, Florida. Once arriving in Florida, he broke into a sorority house at Florida State University and murdered two young women. A few weeks later he abducted and killed a twelve year old girl, which was his final victim. Bundy was then captured by Pensacola police while driving a stolen vehicle. He was convicted for the Florida State University murders and sentenced to death in 1979, and was executed 10 years later.
The eighteen year-long manhunt for nature-centered anarchist, Theodore Kaczynski, is one of the lengthiest in U.S. history. Kaczynski earned the nickname “Unabomber” in 1978 after mailing his first wave of sixteen bombs to various destinations within the United States. These homemade explosives, mailed over a seventeen year period, killed three and wounded another twenty three. This led the FBI to offer a $1 million reward for his capture. Kaczynski was an expert at evading capture and remained secluded in his Montana home. The only reason he was arrested was that the Unabomber’s brother read one of his manifestos in The New York Times and recognized his siblings writing style, prompting him to alert authorities. Kaczynski was arrested on April 3rd, 1996, and continues to serve out eight life sentences at a maximum security facility in Florence, Colorado.
February of 2013, former Los Angeles Police Department officer, Christopher Dorner, embarked on a “personal vendetta” against law enforcement and their families. The well trained expert marksman had been fired from the force after making false accusations about a fellow officer kicking an arrestee. It is not certain what pushed Dorner over the edge, but as one source points out, unsuccessful appeals may have been the primary cause of his rampage which escalated into an all-out shooting spree. He staged a series of attacks on police officers and their families. Four people were killed, and three others wounded. The manhunt which came as a result to these events encompassed much of California and even spread into Mexico, and lasted for nearly two weeks. Dorner was finally cornered in a cabin in California where he took his own life. This remains one of the most broadcasted and reported manhunts of the twenty first century.
John Wilkes Booth
President Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed in Ford’s Theatre on April 15th, 1865. The events that transpired there after remain shrouded in conspiracy and mystery. After firing the fatal shot at point blank range, Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, jumped from the balcony onto the stage, at which time a comical scene was taking place leading the audience to think it was all an act. What ensued was a twelve day, multi-state manhunt for the killer. Booth spent five days hiding out in the Maryland woods, at which time, a $100,000 reward was offered for his capture, which equates to over $1.4 million today. Some 10,000 federal troops, detectives, and police officials were tracking his every move, trying to pinpoint an exact location. After a tireless twelve days spent searching, John Wilkes Booth was discovered hiding in a Virginian barn. Accounts differ as to the assassin’s actual death, some say he was struck by a bullet while inside and others claim that he was killed as a result of painful burns which were caused by the barn being set on fire in an attempt to get him to surrender himself.