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Survivor Of Alcatraz Escape Attempt Dies In Prison

October 5, 1988 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ Clarence Carnes, the only inmate survivor of a 1946 escape attempt from Alcatraz that left seven dead, has died in prison, a month before he was to be released. He was 61 and spent most of his life behind bars.

Carnes died Monday at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners.

On July 6, 1945, Carnes was sent to Alcatraz, the federal prison-island in San Francisco Bay. He was 18, the youngest inmate ever incarcerated there.

Early the next year, Carnes was drawn into a daring escape plot that quickly went awry. Two guards were killed and several were wounded. The six inmates who participated got control of little more than one cell house.

Marines on their way home from Okinawa helped prison guards from as far away as Leavenworth, Kan., retake the prison.

When it was over, three inmates were dead. Two others, Miran Edgar Thompson and Sam Shockley, were later executed. Carnes was spared the death penalty because he refused to murder several guards he was assigned to kill.

For the next six years, Carnes was confined to a cell next to one occupied by Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz. Stroud had donated $200 to the defense fund for Carnes, Shockley and Thompson from royalties from his book, ″Digest of Bird Diseases.″

Carnes, born to impoverished Indian parents in east Oklahoma, committed his first crime at age 8 by stealing candy bars at school.

In 1943, he was sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to murdering an Oklahoma service station attendant during a holdup.

In 1963, four months before Alcatraz was closed as a prison, Carnes was transferred to Springfield and then to Leavenworth in January 1963.

In October 1970, he was paroled to Oklahoma, where he still had time to serve on the murder sentence.

Carnes was released to federal parole on Dec. 21, 1973. He lived in the Kansas City area after that, but his parole was revoked twice for minor infractions, mostly because of a drinking problem. He was to be released from prison again next month.

″He simply couldn’t adapt to life in society and its laws,″ said Joseph M. Brandenburg, Carnes’ probation officer for several years.