Unspeakable Times
26.4k readers

The “Roofman” Escaped Prison And Secretly Lived Behind The Bikes At Toys R Us For Months

Updated October 13, 2018 26.4k views12 items

If you saw a movie about Jeffrey Manchester, an escaped criminal found living in Toys 'R Us, you would think it was a little too over the top. But everything about Manchester, or “Roofman” as he was known to law enforcement across the country, was over the top. The true story of the Roofman has everything from a crime spree, to a daring daylight prison break, to a secret crime lair filled with Spider-Man paraphernalia. These Jeffrey Manchester crime facts are mind boggling in how outlandish they are and when you’re finished you’ll never look at the bike rack of a toy store the same way again.

Manchester’s story of crime exists in two parts. The first follows his ascendance to the rank of Roofman, a burglar who broke into restaurants and politely robbed the place at gunpoint. After his arrest, he mysteriously vanished from a North Carolina prison only to be found living in a home made apartment inside of a Toys ‘R Us. Somehow the story gets ever weirder.

  • Jeffrey Allen Manchester Became The Roofman

    Photo: JeepersMedia / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Jeff Manchester,  former U.S. Army reservist, originally gained notoriety as the "Roofman," a thief known for dropping into fast-food restaurants from the roof and startling the employees before robbing them. He mostly robbed McDonald's restaurants, and the rare variations in his M.O. came about when he would bore a hole in the back wall of a building and enter that way. According to his victims, the Roofman was exceedingly nice and soft spoken. He even made sure that they wore their coats when he locked them in their restaurant's walk-in freezer. 

  • The Roofman Stayed 'Brand Loyal'

    Photo: Thomas Hawk / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    It's hard to calculate how many specific crimes a burglar commits in a calendar year, but it's safe to say that the less burglaries on chain restaurants you commit, the less chance you have of running into trouble with the law. Roofman didn't see it that way. He moved across the country burglarizing McDonald's after McDonald's because it was so easy. Each restaurant has a similar enough floor plan as to make his job easier each time he does it. It's essentially like walking through your house at night. The first time you do it you'll probably bump into a wall or a table, but after 10 or 15 attempts you can do it with your eyes closed. The repetitive nature of Roofman's crimes are why he was able to rob 40 McDonald's over the course of two years before he was caught. 

  • The Roofman Escaped From Prison Under A Truck

    After being arrested for burglarizing a series of chain restaurants, Jeff Manchester found himself sitting in Brown Creek prison in North Carolina. Manchester was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2000, and five years into the sentence he decided to make his move. Roofman's escape was actually quite brilliant in its simplicity. He was allowed to work in the machine shop of Brown Creek prison, which gave him the chance to build a board that could safely hold him under the truck on which he would make his escape. 

    It's likely that he spent his first five years behind bars studying the comings and goings of prisoners, the frequency at which the guards changed shifts, and how often trucks made deliveries. It's been reported that Manchester escaped under both a bread truck and under a tool truck. Either way, he chose a rainy day in order to make it harder for guards and their dogs to notice that he was hiding out. When the time was right, Manchester clung to the bottom of a bread truck and disappeared from the prison. 

  • Manchester Settled Down In North Carolina And Built Himself A Home In A Toys 'R Us

    Photo: JeepersMedia / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Rather than get back to California or escape the country as quickly as possible, Manchester made the strange decision to go to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. According to the Daily Beast, Manchester had been convinced that the sentences for burglary were more lenient in that county than others. So, the Roofman went to Mecklenburg County and began to firmly entrench himself into the community. He started going to church, volunteering, and making sure he handed out toys to all kids in his community. How does a convicted felon fresh off a prison break find a place to live? Easy, he built a small room behind a bike rack in the local Toys 'R Us.