Durant (Okla.) Daily Democrat, Sunday, May 28, 1978

Past Meeting Saved Life Of Washington, Busby

Russell Washington thought little about letting Claude Eugene Dennis hunt on his farm a few years ago. That simple "yes" probably saved the lives of Washington and hired hand G.D. Busby Friday.

Washington, 34, and Busby, 59, were surprised by escaped convicts Claude Eugene Dennis and Michael Lancaster at Washington's home south of Kenefic shortly before 10 a.m. Friday.

Unlike other hostages the McAlester escapees are suspected of killing, Washington and Busby lived to tell about it.

The first people Washington told about it was the Oklahoma Highway patrol. That phone call set off the bloody chase of the two escapees that ended in their deaths. They left in the wake the bullet-riddled bodies of three OHP and a fourth wounded.

"I think it's a testimony to the power of God that I'm alive," Washington said. "I did a lot of praying while they were in the house, and my prayers were answered."

Washington said he first sensed something was wrong when he noticed his little dachshund "acting up" as if some one was in the house or had been there. Washington and his family had spend the night at the home of his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Garland Washington.

"Buzz and I were at a little shop about 30 or 40 yards from the house when I started up there to get something and noticed the dog barking," Washington said. "I went back to the shop to tell Buzz and he said 'Nah, there ain't nothing wrong'."

Washington said he went to his pickup, got his .22 rifle. Then he and Busby went to the house and entered through the kitchen.

Didn't See Them
"We couldn't see them when we first walked in," Washington said. "Busby went to the living room, and I turned right to a bedroom."

Busby was first to confront the convicts, "Hi boys. How are you doing?" Busby asked. "Fine. How are you?" Dennis replied.

"They heard us come in together, and told Busby to tell me to come in the living room. I did - saying a whole bunch of prayers as I walked," Washington said.

"They told us to spread eagle on the kitchen floor. We obliged, and when we were on the floor they told us they were going to tie us up."

Washington said both men had knives in their belts and a variety of guns. "Lancaster cut electrical cords in the living room to bind us."

Has Apology
"Dennis said he was sorry about cutting the wires. I said that was quite all right. Lancaster said we had interrupted his sandwich and after he tied us up, he want back to eating," Washington said.

"I know you," Dennis told the rancher. "I'll bet you don't remember, but you let me come hunting on your place one time."

"I was laying on my stomach when he spoke to me," Washington said. "I rolled over and looked up, and recognized him.

"I even remembered the car he was driving and that he had dove hunted with three or four other guys about three or four years ago. I told him what I remembered, that I also like to hunt. We talked quite a while about hunting."

Then Dennis told him, "I know your a family man and a hard working old boy - I'm not going to kill you."

Talk is Relaxed
Washington said he and Dennis talked about many things. "The conversation was so relaxed, we got around to talking to each other on a first-name basis. Dennis was drinking some of my milk and eating an apple. I didn't say anything to him about it."

He said he and the escaped killer talked of many things, but every time Dennis started talking about something that seemed to get him upset Washington would try to change the subject.

"I didn't want to talk about anything but dove hunting," Washington said.

Washington said at one point Dennis said, "I can't believe she tried to get a gun when I was standing right there with one turned on her."

Retired school teacher Stacy Beavers was murdered at her Cuba, Ala., home Monday night. Her car was found near Kansas creek area of Lake Texoma Wednesday night, triggering one of the largest manhunts in Oklahoma history.

Evidence Found
Cardboard containers with several paid bills and music books, each with "Stacy Beavers" written in neat script on their covers were found Thursday under Carpenter Bluff bridge on Red river in southern Bryan county.

"Dennis told me 'People make you kill them. They know you've got a gun on them and they still try to get away'." Washington said.

He said Dennis also said he got "rooked" when he was convicted of killing Bryan county bulldozer operator Arthur Lake. Lake was shot to death on Jan. 24, 1975. Dennis was convicted in September 1977.

The conviction had been appealed only a couple of weeks before Dennis and Lancaster tunneled their way to freedom April 23 from McAlester prison. The Court of Criminal appeals dismissed the appeal in May a few days later.

"Dennis looked at me and said, 'If you'd been on that jury I'd have killed you on sight'," Washington said.

Take Food, Cash
He said after the fugitives had finished eating, they gathered up "a bunch of food in a pillow case or a bed sheet - I didn't see which - took about $200, asked directions to the Blue river bridge and headed for my pickup."

"See you around," Dennis said as he left.

"Well, I hope you the best., I'll pray for you," Washington replied.

"Dennis said, 'We'll need all the help we can get," Washington recalled.

Washington said the fugitives did not cut his phone lines, and as soon as he heard his pickup drive away, he began trying to get loose.

His first try failed. "I cut the circulation off to my hands, but I knew I had to get loose. They were headed in the direction of my dad's house, and I also knew if they hit a roadblock they might come back here."

Dennis and Lancaster had failed to take Washington's pocket knife and on the second attempt he broke loose. "I don't know how I did it, but I got my hands free."

Washington said he then called the OHP and took off for his father's house.

"I don't want anyone to think those two were heroes. It was brutal what they did to those patrolmen, and it's just by the grace of God that Buzz and I are here.

"Maybe in some way I helped in their capture. It was the closest lead they had ever had. I'm sure sorry those troopers were killed, but there could have been a lot of other people killed if the men had gotten away - they were armed with an arsenal."

Another Bryan county man, Richard Hicks, barely missed an encounter with the fugitives at Washington's home. He had been hauling hay for the Kenefic farmer-rancher in his spare time and on his days off, and was at the home about 9 a.m. to get a hay truck.

"There were some bales off the truck. I was a little nervous about the convicts being in the area and decided to leave without getting the truck. I'm glad I did." Hicks works for the Democrat.