Garrett Brock Trapnell

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Garrett Brock Trapnell
Born(1938-01-31)January 31, 1938
DiedSeptember 7, 1993(1993-09-07) (aged 55)
Criminal chargeHijacking of an aircraft, kidnapping and armed robbery, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and escape from custody
PenaltyLife imprisonment for hijacking, concurrent five years to life for armed robbery, consecutive 15 years for kidnapping conspiracy

Garrett Brock Trapnell (January 31, 1938 – September 7, 1993) was a con man, bank robber, and aircraft hijacker of the 1960s and early 1970s. Trapnell robbed a string of banks in Canada,[1] frequently posed as an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, masterminded a $100,000 jewelry store heist in Freeport, Bahamas,[2] and simultaneously maintained marriages with at least six women.[3] When arrested for his crimes, he frequently feigned madness and successfully used the insanity defense to be committed to mental institutions, from which he would later escape or be released on the grounds that he was no longer dangerous. While serving life imprisonment for the hijacking of a passenger airliner in 1972, he was the subject of a book, The Fox Is Crazy Too, written by journalist Eliot Asinof.

A lifelong smoker, he died at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri after developing emphysema.[4][5]

Hijacking and trial[edit]

On January 28, 1972, Trapnell, using a .45 caliber pistol he had smuggled aboard inside a plaster cast on his arm, hijacked TWA Flight #2 on a flight from Los Angeles to New York while over Chicago. Trapnell demanded $306,800 in cash (to recoup the loss of a recent court case), the release of Angela Davis (as well as that of a friend of his who was also imprisoned), and a formal pardon from President Richard Nixon.[4] The FBI was able to retake the aircraft during a crew switch at Kennedy Airport; Trapnell was shot and wounded but no one else was hurt. Trapnell's skyjacking came after a string of similar domestic incidents (especially Cuba-bound hijackings) and was directly responsible for an overhaul of security procedures by the Federal Aviation Administration that remained in place until the September 11 attacks almost 30 years later.

At trial he pleaded insanity, claiming that he suffered from multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia and that the hijacking was actually committed by an alter ego named "Greg Ross." This position was discredited when the prosecution produced audio recordings from an interview with Trapnell, recorded months before the hijacking, in which he had boasted to a journalist of his skill at faking insanity. Nevertheless, the trial still ended in a hung jury when a lone juror (a social worker by profession) held out for acquittal.[4] At his retrial four months later, however, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. His subsequent incarceration at USP Marion, the first federal supermax prison, was marked by continued scheming and criminal endeavour.

Attempted breakouts[edit]

On May 24, 1978 his friend, 43-year-old Barbara Ann Oswald, hijacked a St. Louis-based charter helicopter and forced the pilot to land in the yard at USP Marion, where Trapnell was serving his sentence. While landing the aircraft the pilot, Allen Barklage, who was a Vietnam veteran, struggled with Oswald and managed to wrestle the gun away from her. Barklage then shot and killed Oswald, thwarting the escape.[6] In addition to Trapnell, another inmate involved in the escape was Martin J. McNally, who had hijacked a St. Louis-Tulsa American Airlines Flight on June 23, 1972 and demanded $502,500 before jumping out of a Boeing 727 over Peru, Indiana. Barklage died in a helicopter crash on September 19, 1998, succumbing to his wounds on September 25, and McNally was paroled on January 27, 2010. [7] According to Eddie G. Griffin, an author, former member of the Black Panther Party, and convicted bank robber who was incarcerated at Marion at the time, Trapnell was placed under a "no human contact" order following the attempted escape and spent most of the remainder of his life in solitary confinement.[8]

On December 21, 1978 Robin Oswald, the 17-year-old daughter of Barbara Ann Oswald, hijacked TWA Flight 541 and demanded that Trapnell be freed or she would detonate dynamite that was strapped to her body. Robin Oswald was remembered by the hostages aboard the flight as a "beautiful girl" with a serious demeanor, who never exhibited any signs of nervousness.[9] FBI negotiators were able to free the passengers and induce her to surrender with no injuries or deaths. The bomb that was strapped to her chest later emerged to be a set of railroad flares wired to what appeared to be a doorbell.[10] Robin Oswald was charged as a juvenile with charges not being announced as is the law in Illinois.[11]


  1. ^ Return of Dr. Jekyll
  2. ^ New York's 9-Hour Drama: Another Skyjacker Shot
  3. ^ "Fan Mail From Prison". The Huffington Post. 25 February 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Killen, Andreas (January 16, 2005). "The First Hijackers". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  5. ^ Garrett Trapnell, 55; Charismatic Criminal
  6. ^ St. Joseph News-Press (December 21, 1978). "Plane Hijacked". St. Joseph News-Press. News-Press & Gazette Company. p. Front Page. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  7. ^ Lee Enterprises. "A Look Back • Airline hijacking at Lambert in 1972 turns bizarre".
  8. ^ Eddie G. Griffin (30 June 2008). "Eddie G. Griffin (BASG)".
  9. ^ Lakeland Ledger (Dec 22, 1978). "Passenger - 'Beautiful Girl' was serious". Lakeland Ledger. Lakeland, Florida: The New York Times Company. p. 1. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  10. ^ Daily Union (Dec 27, 1978). "Ex-Fort Riley chief of staff recalls hijacking". Daily Union. Junction City, Geary County, Kansas: Montgomery Communications, Inc.
  11. ^ Kentucky New Era (Dec 22, 1978). "17-Year-Old Hijacks To Free Hijacker". Kentucky New Era. p. 11. Retrieved January 10, 2011.