Investigators still hope to find convicted murderer who escaped from Florida prison 30 years ago
POLK CITY, Fla. - Thirty years ago, a convicted murderer pulled off a disappearing act.
A man who beat his girlfriend to death concealed himself inside a prison delivery truck, rode right off the prison grounds in Polk City, Florida and out of the grasp of the justice system. It wasn’t his first jail escape – but it was his most successful one.
Glen Chambers fled from Polk Correctional Institute on February 21, 1990, and he hasn’t been seen since.
To this day, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues to receive tips of Chambers’ possible whereabouts throughout the U.S.
One alleged sighting was as far as Canada. Even further: New Zealand.
Investigators believe there is a chance Chambers can be living his life under a new identity. If so, he would be 68 years old today.
Two age-progression photos showing what Glen Chambers may look like today. (Florida Department of Law Enforcement)
"HE COULD BE YOUR NEIGHBOR"
“I think Chambers is young enough that it’s likely he is still alive,” explained Brannon Sheely, an FDLE special agent supervisor who has been involved in Chambers’ case for over a decade.
The post-escape theories may sound like a movie. There are true stories where escaped convicts have started a new life. They are people like Judy Lynn Hayman, who was caught 37 years after her escape, and Frank Freshwaters, who escaped an Ohio prison camp in 1959 and was found in Florida in 2015.
In 2015, a man named Bobby Love was arrested. His wife and four kids learned his real name was actually Walter Miller, a convicted bank robber who fled from prison 40 years prior.
Those escapees, who have been living out of the prison system for decades, can end up assimilating into society.
“He could be your neighbor,” Sheely said.
THE MURDER IN SARASOTA, FLORIDA
Connie Weeks was a 21-year-old waitress at Sarasota Lanes bowling alley. She was the mother of a toddler son at the time.
Her relationship with Chambers seemed normal at the beginning, but Special Agent Sheely said there is one word that would describe Chambers: Manipulative.
“He was able to charm people or make people like him. I think that’s what happened at the early onset in this relationship with Connie,” Special Agent Sheely explained. “Based on witness statements, it appears she was in an abusive relationship with him. It just escalated to a tragic outcome.”
File image of Connie Weeks, the victim.
On the morning of January 22, 1975, Chambers and Weeks had an argument that later spiraled into a physical confrontation. Chambers waited for her outside the bowling alley and assaulted her in the parking lot. An off-duty officer intervened and Chambers was arrested.
At 6:18 p.m., he was booked into jail.
At 9:25 p.m., Weeks bailed him out. Police said they went to the apartment they shared, and Chambers attacked Weeks again.
At 10:50 p.m., he showed up at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, carrying Weeks in his arms.
Police said she had severe brain trauma. There was blood found throughout the apartment and in Chambers' vehicle.
“I do believe it was done primarily with his hands,” Sheely explained. “There were indications of swelling on at least one of his hands. The apartment was in complete disarray.”
After five days, Weeks was pronounced dead on January 27 at 9:15 p.m.
If she was still alive today, Connie would have been 67 years old. Her birthday was on Feb. 8.
“He was just very jealous,” Sheely explained. “He was upset with her for some reason and ended up looking for her, which is how he ended up at the bowling alley. He was upset when he got there and that rage just continued throughout the day.”
Chambers was convicted of first-degree murder on May 29, 1975. On July 11, he was sentenced to death in the electric chair.
During that time, he remained in Sarasota County Jail.
HIS FIRST AND FAILED ESCAPE
It was around 11 p.m. on July 13, 1975, when Chambers and two other inmates overpowered a detention deputy who was returning an inmate to his cell. Chambers was hiding on a ledge and jumped on the deputy as he entered.
The escapees exited through a third-floor window using a rope made of bed sheets, according to a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office narration of the events that night.
The other two inmates didn’t get very far and were captured. However, Chambers wasn’t found for three days.
On the following day, Chambers spoke with the chief detention officer, telling him the escape had been planned for a “long time.”
Chambers continued to try and find ways to free himself. He appealed his case, and it reached all the way up to the Florida Supreme Court. He was resentenced to life in prison.
On April 20, 1977, he received another sentence of five years for his attempted escape from Sarasota County Jail.
ESCAPE FROM POLK COUNTY
Fifteen years after murdering Weeks, her killer was living out his days at the Polk Correctional Institute in Polk City, Florida.
Officials described Chambers as a model inmate, which qualified him for PRIDE, the Department of Corrections’ program that allows well-behaved inmates to build furniture for offices across Florida.
Chambers was tasked with loading trucks. On Feb. 21, 1990, he loaded more than just furniture.
“He put himself inside of a box, and that’s where I believe another inmate helped to put boxes on top of that box to help conceal his location. That truck was en route to Daytona to make a delivery,” Sheely explained.
This map shows the distance between Polk Correctional Institute and Daytona Beach -- which is roughly 100 miles apart.
Sheely said somewhere between Polk City and Daytona Beach, Chambers escaped from the back of the truck. When the vehicle did arrive at its destination, Chambers’ discarded inmate clothing was discovered.
Immediately, Polk Correctional Institute officials were alerted, and deputies discovered Chambers was nowhere on the prison grounds.
Exterior image of Polk Correctional Institute in Polk City, Florida
He had at least two hours to flee from the delivery truck, and it remains unclear where he escaped along the truck route.
One of the witnesses Sheely interviewed said the driver was in “stop-and-go traffic,” potentially allowing Chambers to safely jump out at a slower speed.
The back door of the truck was made of panels. Chambers likely used a tool to open one of those panels and crawl out, allowing the panel to fall back into place.
“From the outside, you wouldn’t see any damage until you lifted the door and saw it,” Sheely explained. “It’s highly likely he had assistance from someone on the outside. I think his escape was done by himself, but I think he did need someone to facilitate his next step.”
WHERE COULD HE BE NOW?
Chambers is described as being highly intelligent – enough to qualify for Mensa, the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. Members score in the 98th percentile or higher.
If alive, it’s one factor that helped Chambers stay under the radar all these years.
“His IQ certainly contributed to his success,” Sheely said.
"I hope they catch him soon," Elinor Hauck, Connie's mother told FOX 13 during a 2009 interview. "I'm not getting any younger and I'd like to see him put away."
The digital footprints we have today weren’t in existence back in 1990. There was no internet history, no email communication, and ID requirements were much less restricted back then.
“I would almost say, pre-9/11, it was easier to reestablish identity back then,” Sheely explained. “I think getting an ID was much easier to start over.”
Sheely said while there is a chance Chambers could be dead, there is also the chance he isn’t.
"Sometimes I think he's just gone on with his life...and my sister didn't get a chance to do that or to raise her son or be with us at all," said Pam Cooper, Connie's sister, during a 2009 interview.
He doesn’t want the public to think that escapees are people who “lurk in the dark” or are homeless. Most of these people have started a new life.
“They assimilate in society under a new identity,” Sheely explained, “and they could be your next-door neighbor.”
There is also no reason to believe that Chambers is still living a life of crime. If he had ever been re-arrested, his fingerprints would be in an identification system – unless he altered his own prints.
Chambers’ escape has been documented through the past three decades in newspapers and TV shows, like “America’s Most Wanted,” and, most recently, on “In Pursuit with John Walsh” which airs on Investigation Discovery.
With media attention, tips continue to come in to FDLE. In 2019, Sheely said the agency received about 20 tips, but they still need the right one to come along.
FDLE produced age-progression photos showing what Chambers may look like today. His hair may appear differently, but one feature should remain the same – his piercing blue eyes.
Age progression photo of Glen Chambers provided by FDLE
While Chambers was in prison, he learned to speak Spanish, offering the idea that he fled to another country.
Chambers used to have a tattoo on his upper left arm that read, “Live Free or Die.” But, it was covered up while he was in prison.
“You can still kind of see [the words] with the naked eye. We’ve never identified what the cover-up is,” Sheely said.
Glen Chamber’s ‘Live Free or Die’ tattoo was later covered up while in state prison. The enhanced image (left) was modified (right) to outline the wording. (Florida Department of Law Enforcement)
But that motto is one he was able to live by for the past 30 years.
“I think what’s important is to focus on Connie, the victim, and her family who are still out there wanting closure,” Sheely said. “The important thing for this agency is to try and get some closure to the family and get Glen back to prison to carry out the remainder of his sentence.”
“The justice system says Glen is supposed to be in prison,” he added. “We need to return him there.”
If you have information on Glen Chambers’ whereabouts, FDLE wants to hear from you. You can submit your tips to 1-800-226-1140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.