The Day We Went to Prison – Part II

Lost Mule Lodge

… a journey that began with a cabin in the woods

This post is a continuation from Part I.

The Missouri State Penitentiary was in continuous operation for 168 years and housed thousands of inmates. A few became infamous.

In Part I, you may have felt sympathy for these prisoners living in such harsh conditions. Especially the bathing.  

The flip side is to remember the victims and the prior circumstances of a few infamous inmates.

To borrow a line from Dr. Phil, “No matter how flat you make a pancake there are always two sides”.

James Earl Ray

James Earl Ray had served time for robberies and mail fraud before coming to the Missouri State Penitentiary.

In 1959 he was convicted of stealing $120 from a grocery store in St. Louis, this with his various other crimes earned him a sentence of 20 years in the Missouri State Penitentiary.

While an inmate, he was given a job in the prison bakery.  This prison baked bread for the other prisons in the state.  The bread was taken by truck to the other neighboring prisons.

In 1967, after serving eight of his twenty year sentence, James Earl Ray made his escape, hiding in the back of the prison’s bread truck.

 Eluding capture – just 11 months after his escape he assassinated Martin Luther King.

This cross was on the sidewalk leading to the gas chamber.

This is the last view of the outdoors before entering the building with the gas chamber.

Bonnie Heady and Carl Hall

Six year old Bobby Greenlease, of Kansas City was in his classroom on September 28, 1953.  Bonnie Heady, convinced his school administrators that she was Bobby’s Aunt and that she needed to pick up Bobby, claiming his mother had suffered a heart attack.

Little Bobby took Bonnie’s hand and walked out the school doors.

Bobby’s parents were the wealthy owners of several auto dealerships. Carl Hall had become familiar with the wealthy Greenlease family as a student where he and Bobby’s older adopted brother had been classmates.

Carl had been planning to victimize this wealthy family for a long time.  Together Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady plotted the kidnapping.

They requested a ransom of $600,000, which the Greenlease family paid – hoping for the safe return of their beloved 6 year old son.

What the Greenlease family soon learned was that Little Bobby had already been murdered – before the ransom was even requested.

His body would be found in a shallow grave in Bonnie Heady’s backyard in St. Joseph, Missouri.

At the time – this was the largest ransom ever paid.

Bonnie Heady and Carl Hall were put to death in the gas chamber – it was the first and only double execution at this facility.

Note the date of the kidnapping and the execution date is less than 3 months.

This photo of all those executed at the Missouri State Penitentiary hangs on the wall outside the gas chamber.

Sonny Liston

When Sonny Liston was just 13 his mom and siblings moved away, leaving him to live with his father.  He soon dropped out of school and began to get into trouble.

Sonny was sentenced to five years in the Missouri State Penitentiary for robbery.  Barely a man in an overcrowded prison, Sonny learned to fight to protect himself.  The prisons priest, suggested he learn to box.  As it turned out, he was a good boxer.  Upon his release, he continued what he learned in life and in prison and became the heavy weight boxing champion of the world.

Having scars still visible as an adult, Sonny often said, “The only thing my old man ever gave me was a beating”.

 The prison closed its doors in 2004. See this baseball tangled in the razor wire?

It is a reminder of a prisoners home run – that was perhaps one of his better days.

You can find out more about the various tours at

We highly recommend the 3 hour tour.

Have a great weekend and be kind, I will be more light hearted next week!

I would sure appreciate it if you would share this site with your family and friends!

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All photos, thoughts, experiences and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated

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