Run to Ground

Inmate Terry Banks broke out of jail in Missouri, prison guard Lynette Barnett by his side. They disappeared for seven weeks - until the law caught up with them in a Victoria County, Texas, trailer park.

Lorra spent nights dreaming of her sister dying. She called a psychic friend who told her Lynette was fine. She wanted to believe her. But police said they expected Lynette to be long dead.

"We kept hoping we'd find her alive," Lorra says.

Life wasn't as sexy as Lynette's glamour shot.
Life wasn't as sexy as Lynette's glamour shot.

On December 11 Terry and Lynette were on America's Most Wanted. Lorra taped it. Down in Victoria, the faces looked familiar.

"That looks like Charlie's daughter," said the guy who lives in the trailer three down from Paul and Jeanne. Most of the neighbors were gathered around watching TV and drinking beer. They laughed it off, remembers neighbor Amy Davis, 34. It was just another joke.

But five miles away in Victoria a man wasn't laughing. After he watched the show the faces stuck in his mind. A few days later he looked Terry and Lynette up on America's Most Wanted's Web site. Terry's profile describes the roman numeral "IV" on his left hand (possibly a prison gang symbol) and the peace signs tattooed across Terry's fingers and says that Terry's entire right hand is scarred from a burn (he fell into a campfire). Lynette's profile describes the rose tattoo and that her blue contacts tint her green eyes, and adds a special alert to medical professionals since she might be running out of her epilepsy medicine. The tipster knew it was them. He picked up the phone and dialed 1-800-CRIME-TV.

He said he thought he had met Terry and Lynette at a party with a scruffy, older guy named Charlie. Mentioning Charlie is what gave the source credibility -- the America's Most Wanted episode hadn't said anything about him.

The tipster gave the address where he had met them but didn't want to give his name. And the police won't give it either.

America's Most Wanted contacted Fritz, of the Cameron Police Department, on Thursday around 2 p.m. Fritz called Lipanovich. It was December 16, Lipanovich's 40th birthday. He got on the phone to the FBI in Victoria and told them to catch the fugitives for his birthday present.

FBI agents and Victoria police officers went to the house where the tipster had met the three fugitives. But they didn't live there. Investigators found their apartment, but Terry and Lynette were gone.

It was cold in Victoria, and their apartment didn't have any heat. Two days before, Charlie had called Paul at work and asked if they could crash in his camper, Jeanne remembers. The old Dodge needs brake and carburetor work, but it has heat.

"If someone's cold, I'll give 'em a blanket," Jeanne says. "That's just how I was raised." She's got five stray cats that hang around her trailer because they know she'll feed them.

Friday morning FBI officers showed up in Captain Michael Buchanek's office. A confidential source had told them Terry and Lynette were staying with Paul and Jeanne -- that was in the county, the sheriff's domain. Sheriff Michael Ratcliff was in San Antonio at his brother's graduation from the police academy. Director of the Operations Division of the sheriff's office, Buchanek gave them a detective and went back to his regular duties. He has seen escapees and murderers before; he didn't think it was anything unusual. Neither did the chief of police.

"It was pretty routine," says Timothy Braaten. "We're always looking for people wanted on warrants."

Just before lunch, investigators drove down Guadalupe Road. Passing mesquite, huisache and hackberry trees tangled in wild grape vines, investigators stopped across from Southwinds Mobile Home Village. FBI agents and officers from the Victoria Police Department, the sheriff's office and the Texas Department of Public Safety set up camp over a small hill just beyond the cattle guard. (One of the sheriff's deputies conveniently lived in the brick house up the hill, so they made it their base.)

They got out their binoculars and discreetly watched. Paul and Jeanne live in a battered blue trailer with scalloped Christmas lights hanging from the roof and snowmen stenciled on the windows. Beside the trailer is a broken-down Dodge motor home with stripes the color of mustard and hot fudge.

The investigators watched and waited.

On Friday afternoon Terry and Lynette walked with Jeanne and Oreo to the park. They sat around the pond in peaceful silence -- none of them are big talkers.

When Paul and Charlie got home, they pulled out a case of Busch and watched an action movie on their 30-inch TV, the way they spend most Friday nights. Partying to them means drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and watching TV. If the weather was nice, they thought they might go fishing Saturday, maybe catch some catfish.

They filled the kitchen sink with beer cans and around 2 a.m. went to bed.

After night fell officers moved into the 15-acre plowed-up cornfield. Standing in black dirt surrounded by an electric fence, they spotted Terry walking back and forth to the trailer. They thought they saw Lynette, but they weren't sure. It was a cold, misty night on a road without streetlights. They needed daylight to be certain -- and to be safe: They had heard Terry and Lynette had a handgun.
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