Copyrighted by Commerical Appeal.
Bump to read later.
What an amazing story! Thank you for posting it. I did some searching and found this:
Following his capture (in the nude) on April 6, 1982, at Union Avenue Church of Christ, Ernest Stubblefield was given a set of clothes and treated at a hospital for dog bites.
The first public apeparance Leslie Gattas made following the end of her 119-day ordeal was to attend mass at St. Louis Catholic Church.
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Abductor of Gattas is freed, secretive as ever
By Lawrence Buser
January 26, 2003
At 9 a.m. on April 6, 1982, police converged on Union Avenue Church of Christ with a lead on a most unusual fugitive.
While searching a storage area below a stage, Sgt. P. L. Exley kicked a hole in a false wall made of fiberboard and sent his barking canine Smokie inside. In the dark, narrow area, a man began hollering and quickly surrendered.
Naked, handcuffed and limping from the fresh dog bites, Ernest Earl Stubblefield - perpetrator of one of the city's most bizarre and highly publicized crimes - was finally captured.
At 10 a.m. on Nov. 17, 2002, Stubblefield walked out of West Tennessee State Penitentiary at Henning a free man, having served more than 20 years behind bars for the kidnapping of 15-year-old Leslie Gattas.
He had $75 in his pocket, some personal belongings and a ride from waiting relatives. There are no supervision requirements, no limits on his new freedom.
"I helped him when he left, and he's gone home up north, but I haven't heard from him since he got out," said Rick Huffman, a Tipton County banker who has known Stubblefield for 15 years through his church's prison outreach ministry. "He's a pretty private type person so I don't feel like sharing a lot of confidences, to be honest with you. I don't want anybody hounding him."
Numerous messages left at the unlisted telephone number of Stubblefield's sister in northern Illinois have gone unanswered. Stubblefield has never explained his motives to authorities or in the media.
"Silence is my weapon," he once told Gattas, who is now a lawyer. She did not respond to inquiries regarding Stubblefield's release.
He was turned down for parole five times between 1989 and 1997.
Still, his 30-year sentence was shortened considerably by time credits for good behavior and program participation.
His institutional record included only two writeups, regular church attendance and minimum security trusty status as a prison farm worker. Yet parole board members were not willing to take a chance on him.
"He seemed like he kind of enjoyed talking about what happened," recalled parole board member Larry Hassell of Memphis. "I did tell him I do regret the day you do get out of prison because you've given me the impression today you might do it again. He really wasn't remorseful, and he never really told us what he was thinking about."
No one has ever been sure what Stubblefield was thinking about when at about 3:30 on the morning of Nov. 19, 1981, he walked into the East Memphis home of George Gattas, bound young Leslie and drove her in the family's car to his attic hideout at Christ United Methodist Church.
Stubblefield then returned the car, put the keys back in the house and walked back to the church at 4488 Poplar nearly 3 miles away. There, for the next 119 days, Stubblefield held young Gattas captive in a crawl space above the sanctuary that measured 14-by-15 feet but was only 3 feet high and disguised by a false wall.
One theory was that Stubblefield was after a ransom and mistakenly thought Leslie was the daughter of prominent catalog showroom re tailer Fred P. Gattas. Her father is Fred's brother, but in any event a ransom demand was never made.
The other theory was he wanted a replacement for his teenage daughter Patti who just weeks earlier had refused to leave her mother in Alabama to live with him. He was divorced and had had virtually no contact with his daughter between 1970 and 1981.
Gattas later said she sometimes was frightened by his temper but that he never harmed her.
Church officials began finding frantic notes Gattas secretly left around the church during evening forays with her captor to the kitchen for food. Despite the details and frequency of the notes, they were mostly dismissed as pranks.
But eventually, coupled with constant problems of missing food, two church maintenance men set up a still watch. At 11:15 p.m. on March 18, 1982, they spotted Stubblefield and Gattas in the kitchen area. After a struggle, they rescued Gattas, but Stubblefield lumbered off into the night, shirtless and barefooted.
By the time he was captured 5 miles away at the Union Avenue church nearly three weeks later, police had cataloged Stubblefield's odd and frightening cache of collectibles he had left behind in the crawl space.
Keys to dozens of churches and residences throughout the city, including more than a dozen with the names of teenage girls taped to them.
Church directories and combinations to the safes of several schools, including St. Agnes Academy, where $3,800 was taken from the safe in July 1981. Two months later Stubblefield bought a car in Alabama for $2,500 cash.
Notebooks and papers with the names of 4,000 girls between ages 14 and 17, many with map book page numbers designating where they lived.
High school yearbooks in which he had circled the pictures of girls, sometimes with notations beside them and the occupations of their fathers.
Less than two months after his capture, Stubblefield - against the advice of his lawyer - pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping and burglary and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Although defendants often try to void their guilty pleas later by claiming their attorneys did not properly represent them, Stubblefield filed nothing. The 6-2, 270-pound inmate quietly went to prison to do his time.
"He was a gentle giant," recalls outreach minister Gary Waller of Brentwood, who met Stubblefield at the main prison in Nashville 20 years ago. "He was a big old guy with a big heart. I remember what (crime) he did, but I didn't in any way see those traits or characteristics. He was kind and I thought pretty sharp. I don't know why he did what he did."
Born and raised in Haleyville in northwest Alabama, Stubblefield later moved to Rock ford, Ill., where, police said, he spent a week in 1967 at a psychiatric hospital on a voluntary commitment.
He lived in Memphis during the 1970s, belonged to several churches and worked as a machinist at three different companies. Colleagues remember him as being good with locks and keys. His addresses included North McNeil, Overton Crossing and the old Tennessee Hotel.
While in prison, Stubblefield held jobs as a milk machine operator for 25 cents an hour, as a farm worker for 42 cents an hour and as a maintenance worker for 50 cents an hour.
He also attended church services and Bible groups on Sundays and Tuesdays.
"He takes the lead in the services by leading singing, leading prayers and serving the Lord's supper," gospel preacher Larry D. Powers of Burlison wrote the parole board in 1990. "I have found him to be reliable and dependable as well as being a good student of the Bible."
He earned a high school equivalency diploma and more than 80 hours of college credit through Dyersburg State Community College.
Stubblefield also established a bank account and donated several hundred dollars to Powers's Elm Grove Church of Christ to help support gospel preachers and to aid victims of Hurricane Hugo, Powers said.
His only two disciplinary marks in prison were for fighting in 1991 and for having excessive property - nine pairs of socks, a large bag of peppers and syrup stored in cracker boxes - in 1997.
While behind bars, his daughter, now 38, got married and started a family. When she sent him pictures of his grandchildren, Stubblefield wrote back thanking her. He also told her it would be best if she did not write him again.
I'd like to see this story get more publicity. Others, older people, have been kidnapped and held prisoner, and couldn't escape.
Wow, what a story and an incredible girl.
What a tough cookie! Smart with the will to survive...can't believe so many people ignored her notes. Bizarre!
All I can say is: WOW. Thanks for posting.
What a disgusting comedy of errors. That poor girl.........surrounded by idiots.
"When Drash, the headmaster, turned over the notes he found to police in March he discovered there was some concern at Christ United Methodist about police involvement."
Denial is an amazing thing. Why are people so afraid of looking bad or feeling shame?! I like this Gattas girl - she lived to fight another day, and makes a difference.
Would that I will have enough courage not to be an ostrich..
To notice what is out of place, and to take action.
You beat me to it. Thanks for posting it.
That was incredible. Thanks for posting it.
Wow, truly amazing that someone could survive that and come out as strong and unsacred as she seems to be. I hope and pray the same thing for Elizabeth Smart.
What a great story of courage.
Wow. What a story.
They should never have released the sick PoS.
Being from Memphis, I remember this case. It was the first thing I thought of when I heard the Smart girl had been found alive.