Smiling John (Part 7 by Smiling John)
“Smiling John” Eastlack escaped from prison and was featured on America’s Most Wanted. He was sentenced to death for the murders he describes. When it was discovered that he has fetal alcohol syndrome, his sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole.
Part 6 left off with Smiling John on the run in Mexico.
I took a cab to Hermosillo Airport and charted a Cessna to fly me to San Carlos on the coast.
In the summer of 1982, I’d come here with my girlfriend’s family, and spent two weeks at the Club Med Resort.
Club Med – a fantasy Island for singles from 18 to 40 – was the perfect place to lay low. They cycled tourists on a two-week rotation every month, nine months of the year.
I arrived at San Carlos, and checked into a condo on the beach for 3 weeks, keeping to myself, swimming, surfing, snorkeling scuba diving and going into town to shop.
On 09-27-89, I woke up hearing someone in the condo downstairs rummaging around.
I grabbed my gun, tiptoed downstairs to the kitchen, and found bags of groceries on the counter and suitcases in the hallway.
Realizing it wasn't a burglar, but thinking the club had over-booked the condo, I stepped into the kitchen to see Monica my fiancée, the ex prison guard.
She’d found me after the feds had booked her for aiding and abetting my escape. She’d bonded out for $2,500, and then shook her FIST/FBI tail to get down here.
After America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries ran my story, my family, parents, brother and sister all went to Colorado to avoid the media. My wife and son flew back to Chicago from Dallas to get away from reporters. Everyone that knew me had disowned me except Monica!
The first thing she said when she saw me was “Who's Patricia?”
Monica and I stayed in San Carlos for almost 1½ years. We went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico City, Belize, Cancun, Mazatlán and Costa Rico, but never back to the States.
On April 16 199,1 I got a phone call at 4:00am for the first time in 19 months from Paul Hatcher from Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX.
I’d sent Paul a postcard in March asking for a job. At the time he was in Iraq for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
Paul told me he had a job for me for six figures in my own area of operations, meaning El Salvador and Columbia. To meet him at the Pelican Club in El Paso at 6:00pm.
One guy I could trust was Paul Hatcher. I kissed Monica goodbye. Not telling her because she would want to come.
I flew by charter from San Carlos to Juárez by Piper, then walked across the border over the bridge into El Paso. “St. Paul, Minnesota!” was my reply to the U.S. Customs guy who asked where I was from.
I caught a cab, then got out at the Pelican Club and walked towards the entrance. It was just after 6:00pm. The parking lot was crowded and people were standing around.
As I grabbed the door to enter the club I heard a bullhorn blare. “Freeze, Eastlack! On the ground!”
There were 27 undercover cops all around me. FBI, DEA, CID and a FIST SWAT team.
I was tackled, slammed and cuffed – hands, feet and waist.
“John Eastlack, you’re under arrest!” said the head FBI special agent in charge of the fugitive internal search team.
Sitting in the back of the Lear jet flying back to Tucson with 8 FBI guys, I realized just how damned tired I was...
Pima County Jail,
Tucson, AZ 1991
By the summer, the jury had found me guilty on all charges and the judge gave me two death sentences, one life and 365 years.
In 1994, the State Supreme Court overturned my conviction due to my judge being charged with gambling and the lead homicide detective blowing his head off with a shotgun.
By 1997, I was given a 25 to life after it was discovered I was the first and only person in the history of the United States to get his case over turned for having FAE-FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) as mitigation.
My case was soon featured on a Discovery and TLC channel documentary called The Sins of Science.
But the Arizona prison system was not done with me yet. In the spring of 1999, a corrupt major set me up to get killed by 3 members of the Aryan Brotherhood.
While in shackles and handcuffs, I was stabbed 21 times with two nine-inch shanks.
Once again, I almost died.
Since then, the years have gone by. I got my health back, work, go to school, and keep in touch with my family.
After all these years, I've never heard from Monica, Patricia, Paul and yet for the postcard, Hilda.
Life goes on.
Click here for a news story on Smiling John.
Click here for Part 6.
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Shaun P. Attwood