In July, 1951, James Byers escaped from the hospital in Ohio where he’d been sent after being badly injured during his arrest for rape, and the Youngstown police alerted nearby towns that he might be headed their way.
On the last day of the month, residents of Cascade Street, on the eastern edge of New Castle, informed the police that a suspicious couple had “slept all night in the weeds” nearby. When Officers Bartoshek and Richards went to investigate, they identified the man as James and arrested him. They placed the couple in separate cells in city hall, holding James on a rape charge (a detail that the New Castle News delicately neglected to report) and the woman – who turned out to be James’s wife, standing by her man in his hour of need – on an open charge.
After James had his photograph taken – the very mug shot on this page – he was led back down to the cells by Andy Fair, an auxiliary constable. Fair had been a prize-fighter in the twenties but he was heading for retirement now and his muscles had long since run to fat, which no doubt influenced what James did next.
As the pair walked along a corridor in the basement of the building, James made a break for it, bursting through a door that led to the police garage and fleeing up the ramp into North Jefferson Street. He took off in the direction of Falls Street, away from the centre. Perhaps he planned to keep running until he hit the woods on the edge of town, or perhaps he had no plan at all. In any case, he managed to run only two blocks before Officer D’Ambrosia, riding one of the police bicycles that he’d been testing in the street just outside city hall, caught up with him and placed him under arrest for the second time that day.
James was sent back to Ohio. There’s no record of what happened to his wife.Sources: New Castle News (“Freedom Dash Unsuccessful”, 31 July, 1951; Andy Fair’s boxing history and later weight gain, untitled stub, page 7, 5 November 1958.)