Inmate Wins No Plaque Flossing Way Over Wall

From Associated Press

Robert Shepard did not need a file baked in a cake to get out of jail. Instead, he used dental floss to make his escape.

While cameras, guards and computer-controlled doors were keeping other inmates in, Shepard reportedly braided the floss into a rope as thick as a telephone cord and used it to scale an 18-foot wall.

Now, people are talking of Shepard as a real-life Spiderman--the comic-book character who spins his web and hangs from ceilings.

“I just wonder how he got ahold of so much dental floss,” said Mike Reiser, who lives near the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston. “What did this guy do? Walk around with stuff in his mouth all the time?”

Shepard, 34, escaped Wednesday from the recreation yard, which is topped by a chain-link fence.


The 5-foot-9, 155-pound inmate apparently attached a weight to the floss cord and hurled it upward to loop through the fence. He then apparently used it to help him climb the cinder block wall, and hung from the cord while he cut through the fence with a three-inch piece of hacksaw blade.

Shepard remained at large Friday. He had been awaiting trial on charges of robbing a post office. His record includes convictions for manslaughter and armed robbery.

At the time of the escape, he was being disciplined with reduced privileges for using a handmade tool to scrape mortar in his cell. He was not allowed in the exercise yard until late at night, after other inmates were locked in their cells.

Just how much floss it takes to make a rope of such a size has not been documented. Packages typically contain 55 yards.

Jail Administrator Larry Parsons said officials were checking records to see how much Shepard may have bought at the commissary.

“I just find it incredible that somebody could use something that thin,” Parsons said. “He’s almost taken on superhuman qualities.”

In the meantime, inmates will have to clean their teeth with something else. Sales of floss have been suspended.