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Claude Lafayette DALLAS Jr.





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Self-styled mountain man
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: January 5, 1981
Date of arrest: April 18, 1982
Date of birth: March 11, 1950
Victims profile: Conley Elms and Bill Pogue (Idaho Fish and Game Officers)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Owyhee County, Idaho, USA
Status: Sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1982. Released in February 2005

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Claude Dallas is an infamous and controversial loner who killed two law enforcement officers in rural Idaho in 1981. After Dallas killed two game enforcement officers when one drew his own weapon, he became a controversial figure in Idaho and his case even attracted some national media attention. Some Idahoans saw him as a folk-hero, while many others were disgusted. After a manslaughter conviction, Dallas served 22 years of a 30 year sentence and was released in February, 2005.

The incident

Two officers, Conley Elms and Bill Pogue of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, approached Dallas regarding suspected poaching in the rural woods of Idaho. While Elms was inside a tent containing poached bobcats, Pogue drew his weapon. Dallas reacted by shooting Pogue with his own handgun. When Elms exited the tent, Dallas shot him as well. After the initial gunfire, Dallas used his .22 gauge rifle to shoot each officer once in the head.

Dallas's friend Jim Stevens, who was with Dallas that day, was in the vicinity, but did not personally witness the first shots.

Dallas fled the scene of the killings and was only found after a major manhunt.

The trial

Dallas was charged with two counts of murder, but the trial quickly shifted focus to the alleged aggressiveness of Officer Pogue. The issue did sway the jury to acquit Dallas of murder, with at least one juror citing concern that Dallas was acting in self-defense when he shot Pogue, who had brandished his own firearm. Many were dismayed at the acquittal, especially in light of the execution-style shots to both officer's heads. However, the jury did convict Dallas of two counts of manslaughter and a third count of concealing evidence and using a firearm. Each of these counts rendered a sentence of 10 years, and the judge ordered that Dallas serve these consecutively as he sought to maximize what he saw as a lenient sentence.

Prison and afterwards

Dallas escaped from prison in 1986 and was on the run for almost a year. His escape enlarged the legend that he was a nomadic trapper whose lifestyle conflicted with the U.S. federal government. He was not sentenced to the normal additional penalty for escapees as the court ruled he escaped as a desperate act of self-preservation to avoid harassment and threats from unruly guards.

Dallas served 22 years in prison, his sentence being reduced by eight years for good behavior. Dallas was released from the Idaho prison system's custody in February, 2005.


Claude Lafayette Dallas, Jr. (born March 11, 1950) was a self-styled mountain man. The son of a dairy farmer, he grew up in rural Morrow County, Ohio where he liked to trap and hunt game. Dallas graduated from Mount Gilead High School, Mount Gilead, Ohio in 1967. During the Vietnam War, he dodged the draft and fled west, earning a living as a ranch hand and trapper. Dallas was eventually charged with killing two game wardens in rural Owyhee County, Idaho, in 1981. In 1986 Dallas escaped from prison and eluded law enforcement officials for a year before being captured.

Dallas attracted national media attention after both incidents, becoming a particularly controversial figure in Idaho. Some Idahoans saw him as a folk hero, defying the government by defending his right to live off the land; many others, however, were shocked and disgusted. After a manslaughter conviction, Dallas served 22 years of a 30-year sentence and was released in February 2005.

The incident

Two officers, Conley Elms and Bill Pogue of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, approached Dallas regarding the numerous obvious poaching infringements in his camp in southern Idaho. During his murder trial, Dallas testified that while Elms was inside a tent containing poached bobcats, Pogue drew his weapon, although there was no evidence to support this claim. Dallas reacted by shooting Pogue with his own handgun, which he habitually wore concealed. When Elms exited the tent, Dallas shot him too. Conley Elms was not armed at any point during the encounter.

After the initial gunfire, Dallas used his .22 caliber lever action rifle to shoot both officers execution style, once each in the head. He then threw Elms' body in a nearby river and, with the reluctant assistance of a friend, Jim Stevens, transported Pogue's body to a distant location, where he hid it in a coyote's den. Stevens, who happened to be visiting the trapper's camp that day, did not witness the first shots, although they occurred only 15 feet from where he stood, facing the river; however, he did see Dallas shoot Elms and Pogue in the head as they lay on the ground. The handgun was recovered by a local Idaho man using a metal detector in December, 2008

Dallas fled the scene of the killings and was only found after an 11-month manhunt.

The trial

Dallas was charged with two counts of first degree murder, but the trial quickly shifted focus to the alleged aggressiveness of one of the victims, Officer Pogue. The issue did sway the jury to convict Dallas of lesser charges of involuntary manslaughter and of using a firearm in the commission of a crime. At least one juror cited concern that Dallas was acting in self-defense when he shot Pogue.

Many were dismayed at the verdict, especially in light of the execution-style shots to both officer's heads. The judge apparently shared these sentiments: he sentenced Dallas to 30 years, the maximum for this offense.

Prison and afterwards

Dallas escaped from the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1986 and was on the run for almost a year. His escape enlarged the legend that he was a nomadic trapper whose lifestyle conflicted with the government. Dallas was captured outside a 7-11 store in Riverside, California, in March 1987. He was then placed in a higher security state prison in Kansas.

Dallas served 22 years in prison, his sentence being reduced by eight years for good behavior. He was released in February 2005.


Convicted Killer Claude Dallas Goes Free

By Patrick Orr

February 7, 2005

24 years after deaths of two F&G officers, the West that Dallas knew has changed, but he remains a polarizing character.

Claude Dallas will walk out of prison Sunday into a different world. The infamous trapper/poacher who killed two Idaho Fish and Game officers in 1981 will find the American West is not such a hospitable place for a man who wants to live off the land. Open spaces are less open. Buckarooing and ranch jobs are scarce. Trapping isn't as lucrative.

He'll likely have to find a different life, and he'll have different rights - prohibited from carrying the weapons that were essential tools of his trade.

Dallas is now 54, a middle-aged man who has spent 22 years in a concrete and steel cell for killing officers Bill Pogue and Conley Elms after they confronted him for poaching game in the remote Owyhee canyonlands.

He'll be released in prison denims, carrying a check with his earnings from working in a prison print shop. The state is keeping the exact time and location of his release secret, but prison officials say he has arranged for someone to pick him up.

So What's Next?

The only person who really knows isn't talking. Dallas has never granted a jailhouse interview and politely declined - in a handwritten note - to talk to The Idaho Statesman about his release.

Friends of Dallas around the Paradise Valley/Paradise Hill area - a remote northern Nevada ranching community and the closest thing he had to a home base - are tightlipped. Most won't return phone calls or hang up when reporters call. Those who will talk say they have no idea what Dallas will do with his life.

"We are all interested in what he is going to do, but I haven't heard a thing about it," said Liz Chabot, a longtime Paradise Valley justice of the peace. "There are mixed emotions. There are some people here who love him, and probably some who hold a grudge."

Hero Or Psychopath: A Fierce Division

Mention the name Claude Dallas, and opinions come fast and furious. To many, Dallas is an unrepentant poacher and killer who couldn't live by society's rules. He is especially reviled by game wardens and the families of Pogue and Elms, who have declined to comment publicly since Dallas' parole hearing in 2001 but earlier called him a "snake," "a murdering bastard" and a "psychopath" who should never again be allowed to breathe free air.

To others, he was a hero who defended himself and a fading way of life when he shot Elms and Pogue. Fish and Game officials admit they're not happy about Dallas being released, but said they don't care to speculate about his fate.

"We look at it like this. We are taking this opportunity to remember Pogue and Elms," said Jon Heggen, chief of enforcement for Idaho Fish and Game. "Dallas has no legacy The legacy rests with the families of Pogue and Elms, and the legacy rests with all Fish and Game employees, and the legacy rests with the critters Pogue and Elms protected. That is the real story here."

But while some attitudes may have not changed in the past 24 years, modern living has.
Former Owyhee County Sheriff Tim Nettleton, who gained fame as the lawman who led the massive, 15-month manhunt for Dallas, thinks Dallas will have to change his buckaroo ways.

"He'll probably go back to Paradise Valley, where his friends are," Nettleton said. "That'll last about three weeks, and then he'll realize he can't live that way anymore. That was 25 years ago. The times have changed."

Bill Mauk, the Boise attorney who represented Dallas during his murder trial, thinks Dallas will leave Idaho for good after his release."Those who are most impassioned by this case tend to be in Idaho," Mauk said. "For the most part, his network connections were not in Idaho - they were in Nevada. I don't see any reason why he would stay here."

His Foremost Desire Is To Do Whatever He Does Quietly'

Mauk, who has recently exchanged letters with Dallas, said his former client is excited to be getting out of prison but didn't disclose his plans. Dallas' mother is still alive "back east," and he has a brother he might try to meet with, Mauk said."His foremost desire is to do whatever he does quietly, and not be the subject of public attention," he said. "He's like anyone coming out of prison for a long time - the most immediate thing he will be confronted with are basic issues like food, housing, transportation, clothing, a stable income."

Mauk said it would be difficult for Dallas to go back to his "mountain man" lifestyle, citing his age and health after two decades of relative inactivity in prison."It would be very difficult for anyone to live the lifestyle Claude lived in this age," he said. "Maybe in some of the more rural parts of Montana, Idaho, or Alaska..." Complicating matters will be his notoriety, which Dallas never wanted in the first place, Mauk said.

Dallas had devoted friends who supported and helped him while he evaded the law for 15 months after the killings. His story sparked a TV movie, a song and at least two books. The cult of personality grew during his 1982 murder trial, where national media shared the courtroom with a group of women who dubbed themselves the "Dallas Cheerleaders.""What has happened over the course of time is Claude Dallas has been unable to be the spokesperson for himself, so others have redefined what the case is all about," Mauk said. "I think Claude Dallas has the ability to build a life somewhere else, where people don't know who he is."

Old friend Jim Stevens, who runs a greenhouse in Paul, was visiting Dallas' camp the day Pogue and Elms dropped in. He was the only witness to their. deaths. Stevens said all he knows is that Dallas will enjoy his freedom and may try to reconnect with family."I hope he has a good life ... I wish him all the luck in the world," said Stevens, who has exchanged birthday cards with Dallas for years and would welcome a visit. "I assume he'll go back to California (where he was arrested in 1987 after escaping from prison) or something."

Old Ways Of Earning Cash Now Harder To Come By

For several years before the shootings Dallas often lived by himself in the northern Nevada wilderness, trapping and shooting animals for subsistence and income, without regard for game regulations.

Hanceford Clayton of Idaho Falls, vice president of the Idaho Trappers Association said Dallas would have a hard time making a living the way he used to, because the high price of gas and low prices for fur make it difficult to get by.

"Very few people make their living at trapping now it's like hunting. It's a hobby," Clayton said. "I just about break even on gas and the traps people steal."

But Diane Clark of Leadore, an Idaho representative to the National Trappers Association, said she believes Dallas could sustain himself by trapping, especially if he targets the bobcats near the Idaho/Nevada border. She and her husband, who are retired, make about $10,000 to $12,000 a year on trapping.

"For someone who didn't have lot of financial responsibilities, like Dallas, it would be possible to make a living at it," she said. Dallas spent some time in the 1970s as a cowboy/ranch hand, but opportunities in that field have dwindled, too.

"Right now, there isn't many jobs for cowboys," said Tom Hall, a longtime rancher from Bruneau. "When spring breaks there's a crew, but the jobs are all pretty well taken up.

"Things are done more mechanically now. You gotta be a truck driver. Straight-up cowboys just don't work much any more."

In the '70s, Dallas did a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet, including driving trucks and other ranch work. When he wasn't in the wilderness, he mostly lived in Paradise Hill, a small group of homes and trailers about 20 miles from Paradise Valley, Nee.

He has worked in a variety of prison jobs, most recently in the print shop of a Kansas prison. He worked on the loading dock and later helped operate the printing press, according to Kansas Department of Corrections reports.

Dallas spent most of his Idaho prison term in Nebraska, New Mexico and most recently Kansas after he escaped from the prison outside Boise in 1986. Last month, he was transferred to Orofino in preparation for his release.

Two Juries Believed He Feared For His Life

Dallas was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1983 after a Canyon County jury rejected first-degree murder charges, instead finding him guilty of two counts of voluntary manslaughter and a gun charge. Jurors later said they believed Dallas' claim that he feared for his life that day at Bull Camp.

His sentence was automatically reduced by a nowdefunct Idaho Department of Correction provision called "good time" that allowed prisoners to get out early. He lost a year of "good time" for escaping from prison, but got no additional penalty because a jury in his escape trial believed his claim that his life was in danger from vengeful prison guards.

Donna Diehl, a juror in his murder trial, said she thinks it's time for Dallas to be freed.
"A lot of people get out of prison who shouldn't, like sex offenders," Diehl said. "I think (Dallas) will be changed by prison, that he will be on the right track.

"He has so many friends in Nevada, and in the wilderness," she said.  About to become a free man, Dallas must shape a new life, Mauk said, noting that the man's fans and enemies see him based on their wants, not his. "To an extent, it's a mystery," he said. "Maybe he doesn't know who he is now - human beings cannot define themselves in isolation.

"The Claude Dallas of today is yet to be defined. That can only be defined over the course of time."


Memories of Tragedy and Trial

By: M. Shaw - FWOA Associate

April 26, 2001, long before his thirty year sentence is over for the January 5, 1981 brutal murders of two Idaho Fish and Game Officers, Claude Lafayette Dallas Jr. will go before the Idaho Parole Commission. Just twenty years after Judge Edward J. Lodge characterized Dallas' premeditated murders of CO Bill Pogue and CO Conley Elms as "unjustified", "morally reprehensible" and "without remorse", Dallas will have a chance at life and freedom. 

District Conservation Officer Gary Loveland of the Idaho Fish and Game Department termed the Dallas trial "a media circus" and after twenty years the media continues to portray Dallas as a folk hero and legend. Those who perceived Dallas as a hero failed to examine his behavior during his cowboy and mountain man/trapper days. 

The behaviors Claude Dallas exhibited in those "close to the land" days lead to the murders of Officers Pogue and Elms. Jack Olsen, for his book "Give a Boy a Gun" interviewed cowboys and others Dallas had known for years before the murders. His cowboy "hero" days were fraught with cruelty to animals and poaching activities. All those Olsen interviewed had stories about Dallas' poaching.... always poaching. Not the stuff cowboy heroes are made of. 

According to Olsen's informants Dallas was noted for having sledge hammered a stallion; punched cows in the nose when he lost his temper; knocked out a Labrador retriever; and had to be physically pulled off a cow he was beating with a 2 x 4 before he killed it. Olsen found that trappers were afraid of Dallas, that he enjoyed killing, was known for removing traps of other trappers and illegally baited traps that killed everything indiscriminately, including eagles. After taking wildlife Dallas would discard it, waste it. Dallas, according to Olsen, was infamous amongst trappers in numerous states for illegally poaching bobcats, cougars, sheep, mustangs and deer. 

Movie scripts and an adoring ballad by Ian Tyson to pen contend, "Dallas lived by the laws of nature; not the laws of man" never noting that conservation laws are written to aid the laws of nature in preserving wildlife and its habitat against the excesses of man and blatant human greed. Dallas was known to trap out a whole area and move on. His killing was that of an indiscriminant predator, observing no law of nature or of man. 

In the winter of 1980 Dallas had set up his trapping camp in Bull Basin, Idaho, three miles from the Nevada border using a "home" address in nearby Paradise Hill, Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management had leased Bull Basin to the Carlin's 45 Ranch as wintering ground for their cattle. To set up his winter trapping camp, "Dallas had moved the 45 ranch cattle out of their leased ground and shut the gates thus denying the 45's cattle access to water. 

You don't do that in Idaho," stated Tim Nettleton, now retired from the Owyhee County Sheriff's Department. "Dallas thought the laws didn't apply to him and he always blamed someone else when things went wrong. His father raised him in Ohio and taught him to shoot geese for sale. He kept doing that long after market hunting was illegal." 

According to Nettleton, "Ten days before the murders, Eddy Carlin checked Dallas out. He noted two illegal bobcat hides in Dallas' camp as well as poached deer. Carlin mentioned to Dallas that Idaho Fish and Game would check the area out. While ranchers might have a blind eye for one deer for food hunted out of season they do not have a blind eye to a lot of killing. Dallas had retorted, "I'll be ready for them."* 

Eddy Carlin's meeting with Dallas had made him uneasy. According to Jerry Thiessen, retired State Game Manager, "Dallas had advised Carlin that he settles his business with a gun. Dallas was polite but his intimidating tactics to scared the heck out of anybody." 

Don and Eddy Carlin of the 45 ranch had also noted other trappers illegally poaching sage grouse on the 45's leased land. They rode to a nearby Indian reservation to use the telephone and phoned CO Bill Pogue at home. They registered a complaint about the sage grouse poachers, but not Claude Dallas. 

COs Bill Pogue and Conley Elms responded to the public complaint. They left their homes at night to drive to the Owyhee Mountains. According to Jerry Thiessen, " they had a few hours sleep in the Fish and Game truck and showed up at the 45 early in the morning" of January 5. 

When they were about to leave Carlin's ranch, Eddy Carlin's wife mentioned about the guy at Bull Camp. At that point Eddy could not avoid it and advised the officers about Dallas. Carlin warned them to be careful and that he didn't trust Dallas. 

They looked after the sage grouse poachers first and met Claude Dallas by the rim above the camp in the afternoon. They had had a lot of distance to cover in the remote area." "In my opinion," stated Tim Nettleton, when Dallas met Pogue on the rim he made the decision to shoot him." Judge Edward Lodge arrived at the same conclusion in his judgment of Dallas. 

Witness, Jim Stevens, testified Claude Dallas had said, "I could have taken them on the rim but they would have killed me up there."* The judge spoke of Dallas' "premeditation"* and "thinking about the situation"* and time to think about what he would do as they had descended to Bull Basin Camp from the rim. 

Dallas had attempted to convince the jury at his trial that the officers were a threat to him from the rim. He had testified CO Pogue advised him they were there to investigate a complaint about illegal bobcats. Dallas confessed to having deer meat, but not bobcats. Dallas testified that CO Pogue had gone to the Fish and Game truck and retrieved handcuffs and a backpack for the descent to the camp. Dallas made a specific point about handcuffs being taken out of the truck at the rim, implying CO Bill Pogue was threatening him and was expressing an attitude which implied he intended to do Dallas harm.*

Dallas also testified that at the rim when CO Elms reached inside his Fish and Game coat, Dallas saw Elms' shoulder holster, implying that CO Conley Elms was threatening him too.* "I think," said Tim Nettleton, "that Conley Elms had a sweater over his shoulder holster. His shoulder holster would have been completely concealed." 

Pictures of CO Elms revealed that in the winter he wore sweaters over his shoulder holster, under his large Fish and Game coat and law enforcement verified that Elms did not use his gun and kept it covered up. Elms, "a big, kind guy", was known for his negotiating skills with violators rather than his gun. To suggest that he had threatened anyone was completely out character. 

At his trial, Dallas testified that CO Pogue requested to see his .22 trap pistol but never requested the gun Dallas claimed "bulged"* under his coat and would have been "clearly visible"* to CO Pogue. "His intent", mentioned Jerry Thiessen," was to imply CO Pogue was wanting a gun fight with him."

This suggestion by Dallas was completely out of Pogue's character as well. CO Pogue was a veteran law enforcement officer. He had been a police officer and the Police Chief of Winnemucca before becoming a Fish and Game officer. The likelihood of a veteran law enforcement officer disregarding officer safety precautions for both himself and his partner by ignoring a "clearly visible" weapon is not likely. 

Picking gun fights is not what conservation officers are about. Their purpose as law enforcement officials is to encourage conservation of wildlife, protect wildlife and to have offenders in violation of wildlife laws address their offences. It was apparent to Judge Lodge, in his judgment, that CO Pogue believed Claude Dallas had been disarmed.* 

"I believe that there were three guns on Dallas," stated Tim Nettleton. "Pogue checked and unloaded the one on Dallas' hip holster and the one in his shoulder. Dallas reholstered those weapons when he checked the mules after the murders. You better believe we checked out the mule area. The third revolver was hidden in the small of his back." 

The two Idaho Fish and Game officers had caught Claude Dallas red-handed in possession of two illegally trapped bobcats and by his own confession, at trial, "three hundred pounds"* of deer meat from deer illegally hunted out of season. 

In recreating the crime Tim Nettleton noted, "Conley Elms had entered Dallas' tent to get the bobcat hides. He had the hides in his hands and was coming out of the tent. We figure Pogue looked at the hides that Elms held, giving Dallas a chance to draw the weapon from the small of his back and start shooting at Pogue. 

In the time frame of four to six seconds Claude Dallas put two bullets in Pogue and two in Elms with a .357 Ruger Service Six. Elms, not having time to get his weapon, had dropped the hides and ducked when Dallas shot him." When both officers were down and helpless, Claude Dallas walked into his tent, picked up a .22 Marlin, returned and shot both officers in the head behind the ear execution style. This is also the method a trapper uses to kill their quarry. 

There was only one witness to Dallas' murderous rampage, Jim Stevens, a man who had brought the mountain man supplies and mail from Nevada. Stevens provided the best evidence of Dallas' guilt of the crime of murder in the first degree. He had asked Claude Dallas why he had killed the officers. Dallas had replied, "I swore I'd never be arrested again. They were gonna handcuff me."* He had also stated to Stevens, "This is murder one for me." Dallas said in further acknowledging he knew what he was guilty of .........murder. 

However, these quotes by Stevens appeared to get lost on the jury in his subsequent testimony. It was not lost on Judge Lodge in his sentencing. 

Following the murders Dallas fled to avoid prosecution. Nevada bar owner, George Nielson provided him with money and supplies. The media and songwriters had a field day glorifying his cowboy background, his "independent trapper, mountain man" image. It portrayed Dallas as living off the land in the mountains and avoiding law enforcement by sheer guile. 

When speaking of Dallas' escape after the Pogue/Elms murders, Tim Nettleton says, "My personal opinion was that Claude Dallas was helped by his family all along. During his escape he went from here to South Dakota, Texas and with his brothers to California." Sheriff Nettleton brought Claude Dallas back to Idaho after his shoot-out with the FBI and capture in Nevada on April 18, 1982. 

The legal and media circus began anew. Dallas's lawyers had him moved from Owyhee County Jail to Caldwell, Idaho. They had claimed Dallas would not get a "fair trial" in Owyhee County. 

The trial finally began September 15, 1982. Claude Dallas pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder in the first degree. The prosecution claimed Claude Dallas was guilty of murders in the first degree due to the fact that Conley Elms was shot in the back and both officers had been shot in the head, execution style, when they were already down and helpless. His method of killing obviously did not indicate that self-defense was a motive for the crimes. 

In order to obtain some of Claude Dallas' background and an idea of the evidence the prosecution had had against him for his trial, I asked Tim Nettleton if Claude Dallas had been involved in the illegal wildlife trade with George Nielson in Nevada. Nettleton laughed and said, "that wouldn't surprise me. He was shooting antelope for illegal Mexicans." Dallas had also poached wildlife in Canada. Evidence of this was collected under search warrant at his home in Paradise Hill, Nevada. 

Nettleton says, " Claude and one of his brothers and Jim Nielson had been in Canada and floated the Yukon River. Dallas got out a mile and a half from the border crossing and brought his backpack and weapons (contraband in Canada) around the checkpoint while his brother and Nielsen cleared Customs. Dallas had pictures of heads and horns of sheep he had killed and brought back." 

He returned to the United States with his poached sheep, avoiding U.S. Customs the same way. Claude Dallas was not unknown in Canada. At one time during his escape he was rumored to be heading to Alberta. His wanted posters were all over Canadian law enforcement offices. Conservation Officer Daniel Boyco of Alberta remembered a time when, "there wasn't a conservation officer in the province who hadn't burned his face to memory." 

"I even had a statement from a rancher," said Tim Nettleton, "that Dallas had tangled with a game warden who cited him for tag trap violations. Dallas paid the fine. Then, Dallas told the rancher, that if the warden (CO Dale Elliot of Nevada) "wasn't your friend, he'd be a dead man now." 

At the trial, according to Officer Loveland, "The prosecuting attorney was new. He'd never prosecuted a murder trial before." Rules of Criminal Procedure prevented the presentation of evidence of Dallas' past. The jury was not permitted to know about Dallas' previous criminal record, history of poaching, sharpshooting and quick-draw practices on targets representing humans, his anti-government sentiments, nor the many pictures of poached animals in his possession. The jury was not permitted to know anything about the dark side of Dallas until after they pronounced their verdict. 

Then the prosecution could enter it into the court record before the judge delivered his sentence. Therefore, none of the evidence collected under search warrant from Dallas' residence, previous threats to wardens, game citations, previous run-ins with conservation officers, or his reading material, which was noted by CO Gary Loveland as being "Soldier of Fortune and articles about How to Shoot Someone" could be shown to the jury. 

According to Gary Loveland, "the defense even claimed Claude Dallas did not have a record." His lawyers even lied to the court. But under the rules of evidence the prosecution still could not introduce his record. It was made to sound as though the murders were Dallas' first offenses. 

In spite of his stated motive to avoid arrest Dallas' claimed that CO Bill Pogue had shot first. The key witness, Jim Stevens, had been terrorized by Dallas after the murders and had feared for his own life. Dallas had made him an unwilling accomplice to removing the officer's bodies from the crime scene, and Dallas had attempted to remove evidence by burning the crime scene at the camp. 

During his testimony Claude Dallas had repeated several times that CO Bill Pogue had said to him, "You can go easy or you can go hard. Makes no difference to me." * Dallas asked the court to believe his interpretation of "going hard" was that CO Pogue intended to kill him! That line Dallas attributed to Bill Pogue was not one law enforcement officers who worked with CO Pogue had heard him use before, according to Gary Loveland. Its universal interpretation by officers is that Dallas could confess to his crimes - the easy way - or they could go through the process of interrogation, arrest and trial - the hard way. 

Claude Dallas took the hard way. He did not want the conservation officers entering his trapping tent. It was his home, he claimed. As we have already seen, it was the location of the illegal bobcat hides. He demanded to see a search warrant for a tent he'd placed on the leased land. It was obvious Dallas did not co-operate with the conservation officers. The facts are incontrovertible. He was in violation of wildlife laws no matter how he explained his possession of the bobcat hides, taken illegally in Idaho or transported illegally from Nevada. 

"He had to go to town, " stated Jerry Thiessen, "He was a non-resident caught inside the state boundary at a time before states had agreements as they do today." "Dallas was in violation of Idaho Game laws and he'd have to go to town to address it, " stated Gary Loveland. "Dallas was resisting going to town. All law enforcement uses phrases to attempt to convince an offender to try to settle down." 

Another interpretation of the "You can go easy" is that the choice of how Dallas was to go to town to settle it was up to him. He could go peacefully with the officers or he could be arrested, handcuffed and taken by the officers. 

Claude Dallas' testimony lost all credibility when he said he did not know where he'd buried the officer's guns. If true Dallas had destroyed evidence that could have corroborated his story by providing proof that Pogue had fired his weapon. Given his keen memory of other places and events his forgetting the burial place of such important evidence is highly suspicious. 

"The trial turned into a media circus," stated Gary Loveland. Dallas' friends came forward to testify to his character. "With the media there the judge wanted to make very sure Dallas got a "fair" trial. The court allowed Bill Pogue's character to be put on trial. The judge was liberal in letting the defense introduce witnesses to supposed events that didn't happen. Although Pogue dealt with people fairly and politely anyone with an axe to grind with him showed up to testify. 

The incidents testified to never happened. They just filled the court with misinformation. One witness even testified to a run in with Bill Pogue and I was the officer that person had spoken to not Pogue. Bill Pogue was an excellent officer, a very professional officer who remained so when confronting people who were in violation." 

Contributing to the outside influences on the jury's decision had been Claude Dallas himself. He had arrived in court as a celebrity of sorts, a folk hero manufactured by the media. The Dallas fan club, according to Jerry Thiessen, had been at his trial. The fan club consisted of women who did not know Claude Dallas personally but were called the "Dallas Cheerleaders." Thiessen says of Dallas, 

"The guy had charisma - the way he carried himself - one could almost disbelieve anything others said against him. Dallas had a psychological effect. He flirted with the jury. He flirted with his fan club. Dallas had an aura about him. He was a damned fine actor who had an excellent attorney who knew how to tilt perspective enough to bring out the heart throb reaction." He continued, " 

The circumstances of the whole trial were different and cruel in that setting especially when Bill was put on trial as a bully game warden. It was all fabricated. He was always polite and to the point. He was a well-respected conservation officer and a leader. He was dedicated and never watched the clock when it came to wildlife he cared about. He drove all night when he heard about the sage grouse being poached. He was an ornithologist and drew pictures of birds. He had a kind heart and a real soft spot for children. He just wasn't prepared for.................He spent his life doing things that were important to do." 

Unfortunately, CO Bill Pogue and CO Conley Elms had attempted to enforce wildlife law on a man who had no concept of conservation and appeared to think all wildlife was there for his killing. It was CO Gary Loveland's opinion that Claude Dallas was convicted on two counts of manslaughter and not murder one because, "The jury didn't do their job." This appeared to be verified by Judge Lodge. 

Retired State Game Manager Jerry Thiessen concluded that the cost of two separate trials for Claude Dallas, one for each murder, had prevented the charges of murder one from being heard separately by the court. Economics had taken a toll on justice. "The way they brought the charges to court had the charges of both murders linked. In my view, there is no way that, if they'd heard two separate trials of murder one, that Conley Elms' murder would have been determined to be manslaughter. His arms were full of illegal bobcat hides. He was fired on. He was not threatening. 

By virtue of hearing both charges together, both charges were reduced to manslaughter verdicts." Claude Dallas was sentenced to 30 years in the Idaho State Penitentiary. His parole is subject to the discretion of the Idaho Parole Board after he served ten years minimum for the killing of each officer. An appeal to the Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the lower court's ruling. 

When Claude Dallas escaped Idaho State Penitentiary, he again claimed law enforcement was trying to kill him, and was sent to a Kansas Corrections facility. On April 26, 2001, Claude Lafayette Dallas Jr. will have a parole hearing before the Idaho State Parole Commission. Tim Nettleton reminded me, "Parole is a priviledge based on good behavior. One has to earn the right." According to Tom Woodward's article in the Idaho Statesman, March 18, Dallas has committed, "18 disciplinary violations since 1997." 

Remorse is also a condition of early release. Claude Dallas has never shown remorse for the killings of two Idaho Fish and Game officers. Public opinion runs high that Claude Dallas should not be released and that he has not served enough time on his thirty-year sentence. 

As Jerry Thiessen says, "There really is no restitution for murders which makes it damned sad and a damned shame. You can't fix the injustice of murder or the mistreatment of the good names of two officers who lost their lives, who were upstanding citizens with love of family and appreciation for values and ethics which can be endorsed by all of us." 

When defendants have rights over and above the rights of victims and their families there is no equality under the law. 

In tribute to CO Bill Pogue and CO Conley Elms who were killed in the line of duty, January 5, 1981.


How did notorious Idaho outlaw, Claude Dallas, escape?

Prison officials have always said killer Claude Dallas cut through two fences on Easter Sunday 1986. But investigators suspect a cover-up.

By Dan Popkey -

March 23, 2008

It is an Idaho legend: Infamous outlaw Claude Dallas escaped from prison on Easter Sunday 1986, cutting two fences and vanishing into the desert.

Dallas fled into the same sagebrush landscape where he had disappeared in 1981 after killing two Idaho Fish & Game officers. Fifteen months passed before the FBI captured Dallas the first time.

After his prison break, Dallas gave authorities the slip for almost a year, fanning his reputation as a canny Old West folk hero. His crimes and elusiveness spawned two books, a TV movie and courthouse groupies who called themselves the Dallas Cheerleaders.

But the legend of his escape — three years into a 22-year term in prison — may be a myth.

Law enforcement investigators now say the official account is probably false. Their skepticism is rooted in contradictory physical evidence, conflicting official accounts of what happened that Easter night and the disappearance of an independent review of the escape.

Rumors challenging the official account were widespread in law enforcement circles. The doubts were so serious that in 2001 the Idaho attorney general, Ada County sheriff and Idaho Department of Correction began an 18-month investigation of the escape.

Their theory: Prison officials faked the fence-cutting to cover up the fact Dallas outsmarted his keepers and simply walked out the front door with a group of visitors shortly before 8 p.m. on March 30, 1986.

The morning after, prison Warden Arvon Arave showed off precisely cut triangles in two chain-link fences to reporters and photographers, contributing another iconic image to the Dallas repertoire.

“Everybody said they knew he was going to escape,” Arave told the Los Angeles Times. Correction Director Al Murphy also fed the mystique: “You give Claude Dallas 6 miles and you might as well give him the country. Oh, well, we’ll find him. It might take a century, but we’ll find him.”

The reinvestigation of who really snipped the 27-inch- and 31-inch-wide holes ended inconclusively. The case was dropped in 2003. This story is the first public disclosure of that inquiry.

Investigators couldn’t prove their theory that Dallas walked out of the Idaho State Correctional Institution, but they told the Idaho Statesman that the facts don’t support the official account.

“My take is they screwed up, and he was able to walk out the front door,” said Ada County Detective Sgt. Pat Schneider, who worked the case after then-Ada County Sheriff Vaughn Killeen ordered the 2001 inquiry. “And somebody said, ‘Well, I better cover my butt and do something to make it look like he escaped the other way.’ I’ve never been able to prove it, but that’s my gut instinct.”

The supervisor of the reinvestigation was Mike Dillon of the attorney general’s office. A former FBI agent, Dillon has been a cop for 40 years.

He is the most cautious of the investigators, holding back from saying he believes a cover-up occurred. But Dillon doubts the official account: “I am not at all satisfied that we’ve got the whole story ... but at the same time we couldn’t come up with anything other than a lot of smoke. I remain skeptical.”

Dallas, now 58, could end the speculation. But he has never granted an interview and did not respond to requests from the Idaho Statesman to break his silence.

‘Kind of like the Kennedy assassination’

A month after the escape, Correction Director Murphy asked George Sumner, former warden at California’s San Quentin prison, to investigate. But Sumner’s report was missing for years. Prison officials even dug through a refuse pile known as the “bone yard” searching for it during the reinvestigation. It finally surfaced this month when the Statesman obtained it from another source. Sumner’s report supports the theory that Dallas walked out with departing visitors. Sumner concluded the visiting process “provides too much opportunity for escapes into the community.” His first recommendation was to reform visiting procedures, including stationing an officer outside the visiting room to operate a gate. Prison officials took the advice, building a security post on the walkway between the visiting area and the main gate.

Warden Arave, who retired in 1996, told the Statesman he still believes Dallas cut his way out. But he doesn’t rule out other theories. “It’s kind of like the Kennedy assassination, you know?” he said. “Who did it?”

This was no presidential assassination. The statute of limitations expired by 2001, barring prosecutions of Idahoans involved in the escape or a cover-up. Recaptured after 11 months, Dallas beat an escape rap in 1987 by convincing a jury he had to flee because his life was endangered by guards looking to kill him.

Why revive the story of a 22-year-old escape?

Sheriff Killeen and then-Attorney General Alan Lance authorized the investigation because a conspiracy to deceive the public and elected officials would be a serious breach of trust. The inquiry sought to correct history and discipline any offending Correction officials who remained on the job.

The Statesman filed public records requests with the attorney general, sheriff and Correction Department, and obtained about 1,000 pages of documents that provide the foundation for this story. Officials say some documents, including interview transcripts, have been lost. Other documents were withheld because they are exempt from the Open Records Law.

The investigation reached its climax in March 2003, when two key prison officers took lie-detector tests.

Investigators believed the men were pivotal: Lt. Wayne Nimmo was in charge the night of the escape and said he was present when the cut fences were discovered more than three hours after Dallas left. Sgt. George Baird was seen by another officer carrying bolt-cutters that night. Baird was the prison armorer, responsible for keeping weapons and tools.

Both denied involvement in a cover-up. A polygraph examiner found their answers “indicative of the truth.” The Statesman was not allowed to see the questions put to Nimmo and Baird because lie-detector tests are considered personnel records.

After 18 months, investigators couldn’t prove a cover-up. “We couldn’t go any further,” said Dillon of the attorney general’s office. They dropped plans to question the top officials at the time of the escape, Correction Director Murphy and Warden Arave.

’Wily mountain man’

Born in Winchester, Va., in 1950, Claude Dallas ducked the draft in Ohio and settled in the remotest corner of the Lower 48, the “ION” region of Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. Handsome and coolly charismatic, he lived off his wits and the land as a trapper and cowboy.

On Jan. 5, 1981, Idaho Fish & Game officers Bill Pogue and Conley Elms tried to arrest Dallas for poaching at his camp on the Owyhee River. Dallas shot them first with a pistol and then put a rifle to their heads and fired again. He pitched Elms into the river and buried Pogue. Dallas was captured in northern Nevada 15 months later.

Charged with two murder counts, Dallas persuaded a jury sitting in Caldwell that he’d feared for his life. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and a weapons charge in 1982. Judge Ed Lodge gave him the maximum allowable sentence, 30 years.

The 1986 escape landed Dallas on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list for the first time. On the lam, his whereabouts ranged from Nevada to Oregon, South Dakota to California, and he had plastic surgery in Mexico. Dallas testified that he paid $3,000 for the surgery, money he’d raised working odd jobs. He didn’t say what features were changed, but it appeared his nose was bobbed and chin lengthened.

The FBI caught him March 8, 1987, in Riverside, Calif. The figure dubbed a “wily mountain man” and “coyote-smart” by the media stood outside a convenience store with a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread.

After his acquittal for escape, Dallas served his time in Nebraska, New Mexico and Kansas. He completed the final weeks of his sentence at the North Idaho Correctional Institution and was released Feb. 6, 2005. He’d served 22 years, having shaved eight years with credit for “good time.”

Dallas obtained an Idaho driver’s license in Emmett a month later but surrendered it in August 2005 to obtain a license in Washington state, which he still holds. The law prohibits disclosure of his address.

Dallas sightings continue. Last fall, he was reportedly seen near Jordan Valley, Ore. Last summer, he was said to be working as a shuttle driver for river trips near McCall.

Now, we learn his escape is an unsolved mystery. Dallas may prefer it that way.

“He isn’t going to talk to you,” said Bill Mauk, who defended Dallas on the murder charges. “He just wants to fade back into the woodwork.”

Mauk can’t disclose anything Dallas has said in confidence, but he was aware of the theory that Dallas walked out with visitors and that officials covered up their blunder.

“I’ve heard a story like that,” Mauk said.

From Dallas? “I can’t say.”

‘Bought hook, line and sinker’

Along with Dillon, two other investigators did the bulk of the work on the 2001-03 inquiry.

Gary Deulen was the attorney general’s investigator who spent the most time on the case. Deulen now is chief deputy sheriff in Canyon County and has 27 years’ experience as a cop.

“I think Claude Dallas walked out on Easter Sunday,” Deulen said. “We’re asked to believe that instead of a slit, he cuts two perfect triangles; then after he’s free he runs across a fresh dirt field after a rainstorm leaving no tracks; he keeps the bolt-cutters or the wire-snips but loses his hat, and his glasses fall off of his face and into a glasses case in the parking lot (350 feet away)? It’s bizarre.”

Dillon has trouble believing that dozens of officers passed within 6 feet of one of the holes without seeing it. “It’s just not logical,” said Dillon. “To walk from the prison to the administration building you had to walk past the hole. And everybody knew there’d been an escape, but nobody saw the hole.”

In 2001, Randy Blades was assigned to represent the Department of Correction in the reinvestigation. A Marine reservist who served in both Iraq wars, Blades had just opened a new Office of Professional Standards. His job was to help overcome the agency’s reputation as a shop run by good old boys.

“The least logical way that this thing could have happened has been bought hook, line and sinker,” Blades said during one of the inquiry’s interviews in 2002.

Blades is now warden of the Virtual Prison Program, overseeing inmates in out-of-state, county and private prisons. He’s been with the Correction Department 20 years.

Now, Blades says, “I stand by that quote. ... The weight of the evidence lends itself toward the holes not being cut by the escaped inmate.”

‘Somebody didn’t want embarrassment’

George Baird is a 27-year Correction employee who now runs the community work center in Nampa. On the night of the escape, Baird was in charge of tools and weapons. He said he retrieved a pair of bolt cutters for another officer to cut a padlock on Dallas’ workshop locker. Baird said he can’t remember who got the tool but suspects it was used to slice the fence.

“I’ve believed for 20 years Claude Dallas walked out our front door,” Baird told the Statesman. “Somebody didn’t want embarrassment. Claude Dallas was a high-profile offender. Claude Dallas committed a hideous crime against people in law enforcement and angered a great big community.”

Baird said he believes “somebody up the command” ordered a subordinate to cut the fences to blunt criticism that official incompetence let the state’s highest-profile inmate go free. “I think they lied,” Baird said.

The cut fences went undiscovered for more than three hours after Dallas escaped. Capt. Jerry Redmon reported finding the holes shortly after he arrived from home late that night.

It was the job of corrections officers to patrol fences. Two officers conducted perimeter checks after the escape and turned up no holes. During a 10:30 p.m. shift change, dozens of officers passed the place where Redmon found the first hole, but none reported a breach.

“Redmon’s a damn captain,” Baird said. “Why is Redmon out doing a fence check?”

A week after the escape, Deputy Warden Larry Wright expressed his concern about the failure of line staff to find the holes. “It took the captain to come all the way from home to find where Dallas had cut the fences!” wrote Wright.

Prison records about the holes contributed to investigators’ suspicion of a cover-up. The master log doesn’t mention holes until a back-dated entry appears the following day, between 3:30 a.m. and 5:02 a.m., reporting “rectangular” holes found about 10:30 p.m.

Redmon’s report to Deputy Warden George Bernick is dated April 8. He wrote that Bernick reached him by phone at his home in Kuna at 10:35 p.m. and that Lt. Nimmo called at 10:40 p.m. According to the prison’s notification log, however,

Redmon also was contacted at 10:48 p.m.

Arriving at the prison, Redmon reported he was briefed by Nimmo. Redmon wrote that he asked if the fence northwest of the administration building had been checked. “I was informed that it had not,” Redmon wrote.

Redmon and Nimmo left the building and found two “triangular” holes. Redmon did not specify the time, nor did Nimmo in his March 31 report.

But Bernick’s April 7 report said Redmon found the holes at 11:04 p.m. If that is correct, and Redmon left home immediately after taking the third call at 10:48 p.m., he would have driven about 16 miles on winding rural roads, been briefed by Lt. Nimmo and discovered the holes, all in 16 minutes.

Asked how he could have accomplished so much so quickly, Redmon said, “I don’t know, but I did.”

Redmon told the Statesman he checked fences himself because “they were making searches inside the yard, not on that perimeter fence around the administration area.” The second hole, however, was at a junction of the perimeter fence and the administration fence, an area already searched by the two patrol officers.

Doubts also have been raised about whether Dallas had wire-cutters, as Warden Arave told the media. Lt. Jim Gibbeson, the officer then responsible for prison investigations, reported to his bosses that several inmates told him Dallas had wire-cutters.

But Gibbeson now says he had no solid evidence Dallas had such a tool and believes Dallas walked out the front door.

“I was out there thumping around thinking that Claude had cut a hole in the fence and took off,” Gibbeson told the Statesman. “I went along with the party. The party program was that he cut a hole in the fence and escaped. I didn’t have enough knowledge at that time to pin down what was happening. But I do today. I think there was some type of conspiracy after Claude left, not before Claude left.”

Gibbeson lost his job in 1990 when he was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor under 16.

‘There was no conspiracy’

Nimmo worked for corrections for 25 years and retired two months after his 2003 polygraph test. In a phone interview, he said, “I’d just as soon let it lie. One big reason I retired was because it was a big (screw) job to begin with, and people want to keep blowing (Dallas) into a hero, and he’s just nothing but a murderer.”

Asked if he knew anything about officers cutting fences, Nimmo said, “I don’t want to talk to you about it,” and hung up.

But Redmon, who retired in 1995 after 29 years, said, “There was no conspiracy. Didn’t happen.”

Former Correction Director Murphy laughed off talk of a conspiracy. “Listen to me,” he said from his office in Salt Lake City, where he now works as a consultant. “That is asinine. That is just ridiculous. It didn’t happen that way. It just didn’t.”

Added Murphy: “He went through the fence. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind. It’s unquestionable.”

Murphy told the Statesman he doesn’t believe Dallas cut the two fences, but that a civilian accomplice did it.

“I don’t think Claude Dallas would have had time to cut it himself,” he said.

Murphy began as a prison guard in Massachusetts in 1969 and was Idaho’s correction director from 1983 to 1989. Known for his take-charge attitude, he arrived at the prison on Easter Sunday night with his .357- caliber magnum pistol.

In the days after the escape, Murphy told reporters, “It’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed.” He complained of prison design flaws and that he’d recently lost 18 officers to higher-paying jobs.

Murphy now acknowledges that he and Lt. Jay Heusser walked over footprints that may have been left by Dallas.

“We’re looking for an escapee,” explained Murphy. “Protecting a crime scene is important in a homicide, but as far as protecting the obvious, I would have gone to the fence.”

Their disregard for evidence alarmed corrections officer Greg Claitor, who made two perimeter fence checks without finding any holes and then found Murphy and Heusser at the cut outer fence. Another officer, Sgt. Robert Hazzard, completed a foot patrol about an hour after Dallas escaped and found no holes.

‘He was an obvious escape risk’

Then-Gov. John Evans questioned the competence of prison staff and pressed for security fixes, including earmarking some of a $2 million appropriation for improvements. “He was an obvious escape risk,” Evans complained. “It’s obvious that we weren’t taking proper care to see that he didn’t escape.”

Among the improvements: the new guard shack to scrutinize visitors, a slowed-down visiting process, a tougher inmate-counting system and razor wire on the fences.

“The next guy that cuts his way through there will bleed to death on the other side,” Warden Arave said. Since Dallas’ getaway 22 years ago, there has been just one escape attempt. It failed.

Blades, the Correction Department investigator, said no employees were disciplined in connection with the escape. Murphy said the focus was on finding Dallas.

“The fact that an escape happened is what’s important.”

Dallas, of course, remains the missing puzzle piece. He was silent on the topic at both his trial and an internal prison hearing. Though acquitted in court, Dallas lost a year of “good time” in the prison disciplinary process for escape and was ordered to repay $159 for damaging state property — the fence.

Warden Arave said Dallas’ silence is central to the doubt.

“The problem is Claude Dallas never admitted anything,” Arave said. “He’s not talking.”

Arave said three explanations are plausible: “All three of those work: He cut it himself, somebody else cut it, or he walked out the front door. But at the time we were focused on the fence.”

Geneva Holman, Dallas’ Easter visitor, said Dallas has no interest in unraveling the mystery.

“I don’t think he really wants to do that,” she said. “He’s doing really good, he’s working hard, he’s put that behind him. I don’t think he wants a bunch more baloney in the newspaper.”

Investigators asked about interviewing Dallas but said he declined. Still, they have hope he will one day come forward.

“I was really hoping he’d talked to you,” Blades told the Statesman.

“My No. 1 motive was to find out what the truth was. We’ve got to find out what happened. It’s one of the great unsolved mysteries.”



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