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THE BODY DUG UP IN A GOLD BAR YARD
January 23, 2014
Updated 1/24/14 with new information
Old mug shot of Dennis Lilly as an up and coming young prison escape artist. CLICK TO ENLARGE
The Mail Station business in Monroe that the Lilly's/Murrays ran for five years, right next to U.S. Highway 2. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Fugitive Dennis Lilly shown here on both sides of his own "Wanted" promo card produced by America's Trading Cards in 1991. The card, measuring 2-1/2" x 3-1/2" was on sale at eBay Jan. 23, 2014 for just $3.76. CLICK TO ENLARGE
MAP shows where Gold Bar is along U.S. Highway 2
Another mug shot view of a young Dennis Lilly. CLICK TO ENLARGE
This story originally ran as a front page Feature Story in the Chronicle the afternoon of January 23, 2014
(GOLD BAR, WA) -- A few days ago the Sky Valley Chronicle received an anonymous phone call. The caller left a message saying, "Looks like the authorities have dug up the body of a long time fugitive from a residence maybe on 2nd street."
That was all. Normally the rumors we get don't pan out to be much of anything. This one did. There was indeed a body of a man found down in the dirt of Gold Bar in a residential yard and his corpse was indeed dug up.
And although as of Thursday the body had not been positively identified by the medical examiner's office - and that could take a while since DNA work needs to be done - authorities believe it may be that of a man who's been on the run from the law for 28 years, ever since he escaped from a prison in 1986.
"We served a search warrant last week which resulted in the exhumation of a body in Gold Bar on Thursday. At this time, there is no evidence of foul play, but the investigation is ongoing," said Snohomish County sheriff's spokeswoman Shari Ireton on Wednesday.
"We are awaiting ID and cause/manner of death from the ME’s Office," added Ireton.
If indeed that body turns out to be the long-on-the-run desperado named Dennis "Slick" Lilly, there is a chance you met him over the years if you live in the Sky Valley area anywhere from Monroe on up Highway 2 through Sultan, Gold Bar and up to the top of Stevens Pass.
SANTA CLAUS WITH A WHITE BEARD
The picture at the top of this story of Lilly back when he was a young tough-and-ready for anything piece of work, would not be the man you would have met.
The man you would have met, if the body is Lilly's, was a friendly, kindly older looking fellow - older looking than his years and a good deal overweight - and with a big white beard like Santa Claus.
In fact he used to play the part of Santa Claus at Christmas time for kids. Ho, ho, ho in more ways than one.
Several people from the Sky Valley Chronicle met him over the years, if that was Lilly, as he and his long time wife ran a business for the past five years in the heart of Monroe called The Mail Station.
The business sits right next to Ruth Realty at 19916 Old Owen Road in Monroe, just about 50 feet northeast off the corner of Highway 2 & the Old Owen Road. Can't miss it.
The business rents out private mailboxes, sells postage and packaging, ships and receives packages by the postal service, Fed Ex, UPS and provides other services and products.
The business advertises it has plenty of parking, which is somewhat true.
The company's website says the business is run by "The Murray Family." Murray is believed by the feds, who have been looking for their man for a very long time, to be one of a few names both Dennis Lilly and his wife Mary have used over the years while keeping one step ahead of the law.
Dennis, it appears now, became Dave Murray and Mary Lilly became Amanda Murray. By all accounts those who met them over the years at their business found them to be warm and pleasant individuals, including two Sky Valley Chronicle workers.
How they ended up living in Gold Bar and working in Monroe and why they chose this area is not yet known, nor is it known where the couple may have obtained the funds to purchase or start the business in Monroe.
THE HOUDINI ESCAPE ARTIST
Dennis Lilly was at one time, assuming he is dead, a Houdini-like escape artist who was the subject of not one but two segments over the years on the TV program "America's Most Wanted (AMW)."
The short version of his flight from justice goes back to 1981 when Lilly - doing time at the Kansas State Prison for things like assault, theft, and other charges related to previous escapes - stole a prison guard's uniform then conned another guard into letting him into the control tower, which he and six other inmates then overtook, according to an online forum of AMW fans who are sort of armchair sleuths.
Then the inmates walked out one gate, and climbed two fences to escape.
Lilly was arrested just hours later after getting into a shootout with police. He shot one officer, but the officer survived. After that escape, Lilly was transferred to the Missouri State Penitentiary where he reportedly made attempts to escape but was always captured.
In 1986 Lilly, ever the good escape artist and a man with a keen eye for vulnerabilities and openings, managed to get a hold of a guard's uniform in a unique way -- he stole it over time piece by piece until he had one complete guard uniform.
Prison inmates have a lot of time on their hands to do such things.
Then one day in 1986, December 13 to be exact, Lilly dressed up in that guard's uniform and during a shift change he simply walked out of prison as a guard. He spent Christmas that year a very free man.
In the getting-out-of-prison-early game, Lilly was a man to be reckoned with.
HOW GOOD WAS HE AT THAT GAME?
Just how good Lilly was at the game of escaping from behind bars can be seen in the total numbers of prison escapees compared to the U.S. prison population as a whole.
According to a 2001 Slate.com article, in 1998, the most recent year (at that time) for which data was available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, just 6,530 people escaped or were AWOL from state prisons.
That was a little more than one-half of 1 percent of the total population of 1,100,224 state inmates.That means Lilly pulled off - more than once - a feat that 99.5% of all prison inmates back then could not do or did not want to do.
And back in 2001 those escape numbers were declining, according to Slate.
The artricle also pointed this out: "True, there are still thousands of escapees a year. Why aren't you hearing about them? The vast majority of escapees are "walk-aways" from community corrections facilities that have minimal supervision. Dramatic, Hollywood-style escapes from maximum security prisons (like Lilly pulled off) are the ones that draw media attention."
And like their maximum security counterparts, the minimum security walk-aways are usually recovered, according to Slate, which again makes Lilly a very rare fugitive to be out there walking around a free man for almost 30 years.
OTHER ESCAPES AND ADVENTURES
Lilly's troubles with the law dated back to 1975, the year of his first arrest. He was busted for burglary and theft and only three days into his sentence, he and four other inmates used pieces of pipes from their cells to bore a hole through a brick wall.
That hole led to a courthouse next door and once through the hole they smashed through a skylight into the courthouse, and then simply ran out the front door. Lilly was caught two weeks later and he was eventually sent in 1977 to the Kansas State Penitentiary.
That year he escaped again by stealing a prison truck. He was caught three weeks later.
By 2001 there was a report Lilly was living on a small Mexican island near Puerto Vallarta, teaching parasailing.
Investigators reportedly found out that it was indeed him having fun in the sun there and that oddly he was using his real name. However, before the feds could nab him Lilly was long gone. That Houdini thing.
The armchair sleuths on the Internet believed Lilly was living on the run at that time with his wife and a daughter who'd be in her late 20's or early 30's today.
HOW THE FEDS FIND LILLY, THEY THINK, IN THE DIRT
The Feds tracked Lilly's wife Mary to the Mail Station business in Monroe where she reportedly told them she was indeed the woman they thought she was and also that the then 64-year old Dennis Lilly had died from pancreatic cancer in 2012.
Mary told investigators she buried him in the back yard in their house in Gold Bar where they had apparently been living since 1993.
A search warrant was served and Snohomish County sheriff's detectives did find human remains under a woodshed behind Ms. Lilly/Murray's home in Gold Bar.
Again, the ME's office has not positively identified those remains and it is not known yet if the person that was buried died of natural causes or by perhaps foul play of some sort.
And how did the Feds end up in Monroe talking to Mary at the Mail Station to begin with?
As is often the case in these types of situations where you can be tracked - and tripped up - everywhere by a Social Security number, it was a fake social security number that led the feds to Mary Lilly's doorstep and to the bones in the dirt.
She had reportedly applied back in October with a stock brokerage firm to open an account but the application was denied due to the birth date and Social Security number not matching the name Amanda Murray.
That raised a red flag with an employee at the brokerage who did a bit of background work and found the real name connected to the Social Security number and birth date Murray provided and that in turn led to finding information that connected her with a man on the run named Dennis Lilly.
A man who, it appears now, ended up under a wood shed in tiny Gold Bar, Washington.
THOSE DARNED NUMBERS
Another interesting angle to this story has to do with those nine numbers that eventually led investigators to the bones in the ground: the Social Security card numbers for "Amanda Murray."
In 1935 when Social Security cards were first issued as part of the New Deal, Americans were fearful that the numbers would become a "national identifier number" for each person and this frightened many Americans.
They were frightened because if ever a dictator was to hold sway in this country and things turned ugly, every man and woman could be tracked down anywhere they went because they had to present that card to have a job, even though employers had no right to demand the number on a job application.
Now you can't get a dental cleaning without putting your social security number on the dentist's new patient form or a fishing license in Washington State without telling the state your social security number.
The government assured Americans back in 1935 they had nothing to fear, that the numbers would never become a "national identifier," that the numbers were just between you and the federal government.
They were a secret between you and your benevolent federal government.
Of course, the federal government either lied back then or whoever came up with that tall tale did not have a clue as to what they were talking about because today every American's Social Security number is indeed a defacto tracking number and it follows you wherever you go.
In fact, you cannot survive in this country without one. And if there is ever a question about your number, you've got problems.
As one woman in Gold Bar recently discovered.
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STORY TAGS: Escaped fugitive Dennis Lilly, Mary Lilly, Gold Bar, WA, Snohomish County Sheriff's office, Sky Valley Chronicle, exhumation of a body, Snohomish County sheriff's spokeswoman Shari Ireton, Monroe, Ruth Realty, Old Owen Road, The Mail Station, Dave Murray, Amanda Murray, FBI, America's Most Wanted, Kansas State Prison, Missouri State Penitentiary, Dennis "Slick" Lilly, Snohomish County sheriff's detectives.