Around 500 people have appeared on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list since its inception in 1949. But only eight of those fugitives have been women. Let’s take a look at these dangerous women’s stories.
1. Ruth Eisemann-Schier
FBI authorities probably knew that it would take a doozy of a crime for a woman to break the Ten Most Wanted list’s gender barrier, and Ruth Eisemann-Schier was certainly involved in a horrific one. In 1968 Eisemann-Schier and her lover, Gary Steven Krist, kidnapped construction heiress and Emory University student Barbara Jane Mackle. The pair demanded a $500,000 ransom from Mackle’s father.
Any kidnapping is horrible enough, but Eisemann-Schier and Krist escalated the horror by burying Mackle alive in a ventilated box in the Georgia woods so she wouldn’t be found until the ransom was paid. When the pair finally received their money, Krist called the FBI with directions to where Mackle was hidden. Amazingly, Mackle was alive and in relatively good health despite spending over 80 hours underground.
Police quickly caught up with Krist, but Eisemann-Schier proved to be more elusive. On December 28, 1968 Eisemann-Schier became the first woman ever to appear on the Ten Most Wanted list, and authorities nabbed her just 79 days later. She spent four years in prison before being deported to her native Honduras.
2. Marie Dean Arrington
Less than three months after Eisemann-Schier’s arrest, the list got its second female tenant. Arrington had originally been on Florida’s death row for the murder of the secretary of a public defender who had unsuccessfully defended her two children on armed robbery charges. (Her sentence was later reduced to life in prison.)
Arrington didn’t stay in jail for too long, though. She cut through a heavy screen in a prison window and escaped in her pajamas in early 1969. She spent over two years on the lam before law enforcement finally tracked her down; the escape earned her an extra 10 years on her prison sentence.
3. Angela Yvonne Davis
On August 7, 1970, Jonathan P. Jackson stormed a courtroom in Marin County, CA, and took Judge Harold Haley and three jurors hostage in an ill-fated attempt to negotiate the freedom of “The Soledad Brothers,” three African-American prisoners who were accused of murdering a white guard at Soledad Prison earlier that year. (Jackson’s brother George was one of the three accused inmates.)
Jonathan Jackson’s brash show of force didn’t result in his brother’s freedom, but Judge Haley was fatally wounded. Investigators quickly learned that Black Panther and Communist activist Angela Davis had purchased the weapons used in Jackson’s attack, and she went on the run. The FBI eventually placed her on the Ten Most Wanted list, and on October 13, 1970, law enforcement apprehended Davis in New York City.
In 1972 Davis was acquitted on all charges related to the incident at the Marin County courthouse, and she has gone on to have a more successful career than the run-of-the-mill fugitive. She spent time on the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz and was the Communist Party USA’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980 and 1984.
4. Bernardine Rae Dohrn
Dohrn, a University of Chicago-educated lawyer and leader of the radical Weather Underground movement, joined the Ten Most Wanted list in 1970 as the result of her Weather-related activities, including the Days of Rage actions in October 1969. The FBI never actually caught up with Dohrn while she was on the list; she fell off of the list in 1974 after a federal judge dismissed the case against her and her fellow Weathermen.
In 1980 Dohrn and her husband, fellow Weather Underground leader William Ayers, turned themselves in to authorities. She served less than a year in jail for her various radical activities, and she has since spent time on the law faculty at Northwestern.
5 & 6. Katherine Ann Power and Susan Edith Saxe
In September 1970 radical roommates Power and Saxe took part in a complicated plot to protest the Vietnam War by arming and funding the Black Panthers. The pair and their co-conspirators were actually successful in robbing a National Guard armory, but one of their accomplices murdered Boston police officer Walter Schroeder in a subsequent bank robbery.
Power and Saxe managed to escape the authorities during the botched bank robbery, but two months later they were added to the Most Wanted list. Saxe eluded the feds for five years before eventually being arrested, but Power managed to remain on the loose for 23 years before finally surrendering in 1993. She served six years of a sentence for armed robbery and manslaughter before being paroled.
7. Donna Jean Willmott
In 1987 Willmott and Claude Daniel Marks became the first man-and-woman team to make the Most Wanted List when they earned a spot for hatching a 1985 scheme to blow up the federal prison in Leavenworth, KS, in order to spring a Puerto Rican nationalist leader. The pair made the critical blunder of buying phony explosives from an FBI informant, but they were able to evade the authorities long enough to go into hiding.
The pair managed to elude capture for over seven years, long enough for both of them to start families and settle down under aliases with their spouses in Pittsburgh. After their 1994 arrest, details emerged that showed the pair weren’t your standard terrorists. Willmott had made quite a name for herself by working tirelessly for several local AIDS charities.
8. Shauntay Henderson
Reputed Kansas City gang leader Shauntay Henderson made her first appearance on the FBI’s famed list on March 31, 2007. Authorities sought Henderson as the shooter in an execution-style murder of a Kansas City man as he sat in his truck.
Henderson’s tenure at the top of the fugitive world was a brief one, though, as authorities finally tracked her down…on March 31, 2007—the same day she first appeared on the list. (Amazingly, Henderson’s short stay on the list didn’t earn her the record for the quickest turnaround by the FBI. That dubious distinction goes to Billie Austin Bryant, a bank robber who murdered two FBI agents in January 1969. Bryant’s name went on the most-wanted list at 5 p.m. at January 8, 1969. The FBI had him in custody by 7 p.m. after Bryant accidentally trapped himself in an attic while trying to elude the authorities.)
Henderson actually only ended up serving three years for a voluntary manslaughter rap connected to the murder and regained her freedom in the spring of 2010. She quickly ran afoul of the law again; a federal grand jury indicted her on weapons charges following a September 2010 car chase with police.