13 Things We Learned About The FBI’s Most Wanted List

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Vote up the facts about the FBI's Most Wanted List that make you glad to be a law-abiding citizen.

The FBI Most Wanted List has a long history of capturing the public's imagination. Since it was created in 1950, the list has stood as a collection of America's most notorious, dangerous, and even fascinating criminals at large. But from law enforcement's perspective, the list is a tool, and an effective one at that. While one of its functions is to keep nationwide law enforcement aware of the biggest threats to the public, the list's most important purpose is to solicit information from the public that may lead to the criminal's arrest. The first person who ever made the list, Thomas James Holden, was arrested with the help of the public, as were nine of the first 20 fugitives caught from the list. Altogether, almost 94% of the 524 fugitives added to the list in its history have been captured or located. 

The Most Wanted List has long been an American institution, but its use has evolved over the years. Here are some facts from the FBI Most Wanted List's fascinating history. 

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  • The First Woman On The List Was Ruth Eisemann-Schier
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    The First Woman On The List Was Ruth Eisemann-Schier

    Of the 524 fugitives added to the list, only 11 have been women. The first was Ruth Eisemann-Schier in 1968. 

    Eisemann-Schier was a grad student at the University of Miami's Institute of Marine Science when she met and started a relationship with Gary Krist, an Alaska-born lab tech with a long rap sheet. Earlier, Krist had come up with the idea to kidnap Barbara Mackle, the 20-year-old daughter of a millionaire Florida land developer. Unlike Krist's wife, Eisemann-Schier was up for it. 

    Eisemann-Schier disguised herself as a man and, along with Krist, kidnapped Mackle from a motel room. After demanding a $500,000 ransom from Mackle's father, Eisemann-Schier and Krist buried her alive in a glass box equipped with an air pump. Authorities located Mackle 83 hours later and apprehended Eisemann-Schier and Krist shortly after. 

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    Donald Eugene Webb Was On The List For 25 Years And Was Only Removed When He Was Presumed Dead

    According to the FBI, there are three ways for a fugitive to be removed from the Most Wanted List. Usually, fugitives are removed when they're captured or when the charges against them are dropped. But rarely, the FBI removes fugitives who are no longer deemed to be "a particularly dangerous menace to society." Usually, this is due to illness, old age, or death. Only 10 fugitives have been removed for this reason, and one was Donald Eugene Webb. 

    Webb was a 49-year-old career criminal who specialized in jewelry store robberies and home burglaries, often in connection with organized crime. But in 1980, he committed his first known killing when he shot Saxonburg, PA, police chief Gregory Adams. 

    The FBI added him to the Most Wanted List in 1981, where he would remain for more than 25 years until the FBI removed him in 2007. But it would be another decade until Webb's ultimate fate became known. 

    Webb was married, and for years after going on the lam, his wife Lillian hid him in a secret room in the basement of their Massachusetts home. As the manhunt continued, Webb passed of a stroke in 1999, and Lillian buried him in their backyard. The FBI removed him from the Most Wanted List in 2007 due to his age, but it wasn't until 2018 that Lillian led authorities to her husband's remains

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    Billie Austin Bryant Spent The Shortest Time On The List

    When Billie Austin Bryant was arrested and convicted in April 1968, he was already a notorious Washington DC area bank robber. By August of that year, Bryant escaped prison by stealing a vehicle he'd been working on in the prison's repair shop and crashing it through a fence. 

    Bryant resumed robbing banks and evaded capture until January 8, 1968. Bryant had robbed a bank earlier that day when two FBI agents tried to arrest him. Bryant shot both, fatally wounding them, and then fled to an attic four blocks away.

    The FBI added him to the Most Wanted List that afternoon. Shortly after that, a homeowner heard strange noises coming from his attic and alerted the authorities. Bryant was caught just two hours after being added to the list. 

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    Victor Manuel Gerena Has Spent The Longest Time On The List

    In 1983, Victor Manuel Gerena was a model employee working for a bank in West Hartford, CT, or at least he appeared to be. On September 12, Gerena and an accomplice stole $7 million from the bank and fled the country. At the time, it was the biggest cash robbery in US history. 

    It turned out that Gerena was secretly a member of the militant Puerto Rican nationalist group Los Macheteros, which has long fought for independence from the US. In Puerto Rico, Gerena and his associates used the money to buy a missile, which they launched at the FBI headquarters in San Juan. The damage was minimal. 

    But the case went deeper than that. Cuban dictator Fidel Castro reportedly financed and supported the robbery in an attempt to destabilize the US. Gerena has never been apprehended, but he was removed from the list in 2016 after 32 years. He's believed to live in Cuba today.  

  • The Oldest Person Added To The List Was 80-Year-Old Eugene Palmer In 2019
    Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
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    The Oldest Person Added To The List Was 80-Year-Old Eugene Palmer In 2019

    Eugene Palmer was 80 years old when he was added to the Most Wanted List in 2019 for the 2012 murder of his daughter-in-law, Tammy Palmer. Tammy had been living on Eugene's property with Eugene's son John and their two children. Their relationship began to fall apart and Tammy filed a restraining order against John. This led to Eugene and Tammy beginning to feud. Things continued to escalate until Tammy threatened to sue Eugene for his property. He allegedly shot her to death and fled into the wilderness in Rockland County, NY. 

    Now 81, the FBI considers Palmer armed and dangerous. The Bureau believes he may be living with relatives in New York or Florida. 

  • Vietnam War Protester Katherine Ann Power Was On The Run For 23 Years Before Turning Herself In
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Katherine Ann Power was another political activist whose connection to a crime landed her on the Most Wanted List. Power was a student at Brandeis University in Boston in the late 1960s when she joined a radical underground group. They started off protesting the Vietnam War and escalated to bank robbery to finance their operation. In September 1970, Power was part of a group of radicals that robbed a Boston bank. One of them shot and killed a police officer, and under Massachusetts law, Power was charged in absentia with manslaughter and armed robbery. 

    On the run, Power moved to Oregon and tried to leave her past behind her, where she had a son. But by the time her son was 13, the guilt from her past was too much, and she gave herself up.