Forrest Silva Tucker is best remembered for one of the most innovative escapes in San Quentin’s history. But twenty years later in 1999 he wasn’t so lucky…
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A 78-year-old career bank robber, who once tweaked San Quentin guards by escaping with two colleagues in a prison- made kayak named “Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Marin Yacht Club,” is in trouble again.
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Forrest Silva Tucker, a reputed member of the real “Over The Hill Gang” in Boston, is in custody on suspicion of robbing a Florida bank and leading sheriff’s deputies on a car chase.
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In trying to avoid arrest Thursday, Tucker allegedly blundered into an enclosed schoolyard and was captured after he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a palm tree.
Deputies said the chase ensued after Tucker, wanted for a bank robbery earlier that day in the town of Jupiter, was spotted visiting his girlfriend in Pompano Beach.
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“You don’t normally think of a 78-year- old man having a girlfriend, but apparently he had quite a way with the ladies,” said a spokesman for the Broward County Sheriff’s Department.
Back in August 1979, Tucker and fellow inmates William McGirk and John Waller had daringly launched a home made kayak from a partially hidden beach on prison grounds.
Their flimsy craft, made of pieces of plastic sheeting, wood, duct tape and Formica, lasted just long enough for them to paddle several hundred yards to freedom right under the noses of the tower guards.
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Within a matter of months, McGirk and Waller were back at San Quentin. They were tried twice for escape, but both times amused jurors refused to convict them. Tucker, meanwhile, remained free.
The next time he surfaced was a few years later in a Boston credit scam. The judge hearing the case freed him on his own recognizance after Marin County prosecutors said they did not want to try him for the San Quentin escape. Lost in the official correspondence between the two states was the fact that Tucker still had years to serve on his original San Quentin sentence. Tucker walked out of the Boston court and never went back.
At the time of his arrest for the Bay Area robberies, Tucker already had a rap sheet going back to a 1936 bicycle theft. There were also two other convictions, including a Florida bust in which he had escaped from a South Dade County hospital by picking the lock on his leg irons.
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Over the next few years, Tucker was identified by law enforcement agencies as a member of a group of elderly criminals in Massachusetts called the “Over the Hill Gang,” which robbed supermarkets in Boston and its suburbs. He was suspected in 17 armed robberies over the years, most recently in southeastern Florida.
Tucker’s 20 years as a California fugitive came to an ignominious end against a palm tree last week.
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