This is the story of a friend of Xena’s who was featured on America’s Most Wanted. “Smiling John” Eastlack was sentenced to death for the murders he describes. But it was later discovered that he has fetal alcohol syndrome, and his sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole. Alcohol damage in the womb warped Smiling John’s thinking processes. He was the first person to avoid the death penalty on the grounds of fetal alcohol syndrome, and his case has been cited in various psychology books. John describes the murders in a detached way that reflects the distortions in his mind. I’m going to run this story in back-to-back parts.

August 29, 1989
Wilmot Prison
Tucson, Arizona

The prison guard just walked past me and completed count. He left the dorm and went to the yard office to turn in his count sheet. I’d have 2½ hours before the prison would know I was missing and escaped.

I’d completed 2 years on a 9½-year sentence for Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices. Basically using a fake ID to withdraw from bank accounts.

Going out the back of the dorm, I crossed the prison yard to the east gate and perimeter fence. Waiting for the complex patrol trucks to pass, I sprinted the 90 feet to the fence, climbed up and jumped over and down.

Kneeling down near fence, I searched the parking lot and surrounding area to make sure I was not seen.

I ran 200 feet and dove into some bushes near the exit to the prison-complex parking lot. Still clear, I crossed the road, jumped over another barbed wire fence and then ran east into the Arizona desert.

After jogging about 3 miles, I slowed down to listen and watch for pursuit from dogs, helicopters, jeeps, horses or officers on foot.

West of me, flying south and north was a helicopter searching the area between the prison and the city of Tucson five miles to the north. I could also hear the chase teams. Dogs, horses and trackers off in the same area.

Picking up the pace, I continued east parallel to the I-10 until I came to Houghton Road.

I knew Houghton ran due north up into Sabino Canyon. My father used to own a condo in the early 1980's, so I was familiar with this area of Tucson.

I crossed the I-10 Freeway back into Tucson and followed Houghton Road north along the wash/river using the west bank as cover.

Around midnight I reached Pantano Park and used the phone to call my fiancée, Monica. She used to be a prison guard at Mohave Unit in Douglas in 1988. We became involved, got caught and then became engaged in March 1989. Since she left the Arizona Department of Corrections, Monica became a successful stripper at Bourbon Street Circus, and developed a $2,000 a week cocaine habit as well.

When I called Monica at midnight, she soon picked me up in a Suzuki Samurai Jeep, with $1,500 cash, a Browning Hi-Power 9mm and some clothes.
We then drove to Ventana Canyon Resort and checked in for 3 days under aliases as a couple from California on a honeymoon.

The next 48 hours I spent engaged in bliss. No worries.

On Friday morning 09-01-89 at approximately 6:00am, I kissed Monica goodbye and told her I had to go make plans to get an ID and get out of the country.

I drove to Fort Lowell Park, parked the jeep along the bank of a river, got out wearing Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, Vans deck shoes, and I had my 9mm in my back waist and a University of Arizona frat hat and Ray-Bans. I looked like some frat preppy out for a stroll.

I called three friends to set some plans up. One at Fort Huachuca, one at Fort Bliss, and one who owned a construction company in Tucson.
In order, I was getting cash, an ID and weapons.

I set a timetable for all 3: 8:00am, 2:00pm, and 8:00pm for Fort Bliss because it was in El Paso, Texas on my way out of the U.S.A.

My first meeting was set up at Pantano Country Club Town House Recreation Center. I chose the location as it's on the top of a hill. It had a clubhouse, tennis courts a basketball court, swimming pool and BBQ pits.
I arrived at about 7:30am. I parked the jeep in the wash behind Tucson Country Club, and then jogged up along the wash, under the bridge and then up behind the clubhouse.

At 8:00am, I saw a helicopter coming low from the west and then a line of police cars entering the country club down below me along half a mile of winding roads with speed bumps.

Danny had got spooked and set me up instead of paying me half of the $27,000 he owed me from 1987.

I had about five minutes before they reached my location, so I grabbed magazines, newspapers and lighter fluid from the BBQ pits, and set them all ablaze as a diversion to cover my exit into the east desert. I abandoned my jeep to the west, and crossed half a mile of desert. I came out at Indian Ridge leaving a monster fire in my wake.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.
Email comments and questions for Smiling John to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.
Shaun P. Attwood


Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

This reads like a movie trailer! It's hard not to envision cars flying, a stripper, dogs and police all against the backdrop of a raging fire.

Jon said...

And the crime spree is just heating up, Sue. What Smiling John does is horrific, but this story carries an important lesson to pregnant women who drink alcohol.


Anonymous said...

Jon, How is Two-Tonys doing? I have been waiting for something on him, and nothing as of yet.

I remember hearing about Smiling John. I had already left Arizona, but was told about it from Family still there.

M2 said...

I know all to well about FAS. My aunt had it when she was born. She is a mess now. Alcoholic isn't a strong enough word for her. She recently was found dead in a trailer park. They managed to resuscitate her, and put her on a ventilator. Her blood alcohol was .5%. She was discharged 3 days later and immediately went back to binging. She can be real sweet at times, but she can turn violent in an instant. Drunk or sober.

Chris said...

My understanding is that fetal alcohol syndromw is pretty much an American invention. In european countries it's considered perfectly safe to drink alcohol in moderation during pregnancy. My mother's German and she continued her normal intake of wine and beer during her pregnancy with me and I'm healthy as a horse. Is FAS a British phenomenon as well, Jon?

Jon said...


Here's a link to the English Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Information Website: