HOUSTON – A condemned prisoner who got a taste of freedom last month when he escaped from a county jail said Wednesday his flight was worth it even though he was caught after three days on the run.
"I got to smell the trees, feel the wind in my hair, grass under my feet, see the stars at night. It took me straight back to childhood being outside on a summer night."
Thompson said he rode trains for 2½ days to near Shreveport, La., and posed as a Hurricane Katrina refugee to get some money before he was arrested there.
"It was short-lived, but I think it was worth it," he said from a tiny visiting cage outside death row in the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Thompson said his flight from the jail, where he had been housed for five months while he was attending a new sentencing trial, was aided by lackadaisical deputies who allowed him to walk out the front door virtually unchallenged.
"Once I got there and seen how relaxed it was — they sit ... and play video games, they sleep on the job," he said. "The sheriff said it was human error and nothing is wrong with their policies. I have to disagree."
Thompson fled a week after he was re-sentenced to death for the 1998 shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.
After Thompson met with an attorney in a small interview cell, he slipped out of his handcuffs and orange jail jumpsuit and left the unlocked room.
He refused to reveal how he got a handcuff key in the Harris County Jail. "I'm not a snitch. I'll take that one to the grave with me."
Thompson waived a badge fashioned from his prison ID card to get past several deputies.
"Then I walked out the front door," Thompson said. "It was the hardest thing in the world to not run. I walked down the steps, down the street, around the corner, stripped to my jogging clothes and went on the jogging path."
Sheriff Tommy Thomas fired one deputy and disciplined eight others for Thompson's escape. One more retired rather than face discipline.
Thompson said he expects to pay for his escape by getting no leniency from Texas courts in his legal appeal. He said prison officials asked if he would try another escape.
"I said, 'I don't think there's any holes in your security here,'" he said. "I'm pretty much resolved to my fate. Concrete box 23 hours a day. Just sit in there and think about how they're going to kill you."