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Dallas rides into sunset


Claude Dallas, legendary Idaho gunslinger and inspiration for the 1986 CBS made-for-TV movie Manhunt for Claude Dallas (starring Annette Bening, Rip Torn and Brent "Data" Spiner) was released from an Idaho prison on Sunday, February 5 after serving 22 years in prison.

Dallas, 55, formerly of Nevada, Virginia and locales unknown, had eight "good behavior" years removed from his 30-year prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter in the standoff-style deaths of two Idaho Fish and Game officers in 1981. Dallas had shot the officers, Conley Elms and Bill Pogue, when they tried to arrest him for poaching bobcats at his remote desert hovel in the canyonlands of southern Owyhee County. Dallas maintained at the time that the killings were self-defense, although he had felt the need to accentuate his "defense" by shooting each victim in the head with a rifle at close range after winging them with a handgun.

Nonetheless, throughout the 1980s and 90s the reclusive mountain man became a controversial folk hero for many old west aficionados and wannabe bandits. His legend only increased when he cut through the fence of the Idaho State Penetentiary in 1986 but was acquitted of escape, after he explained that he had run after being threatened by prison guards. At the time of his breakout, Dallas was even the subject of a glorified ballad by country-folk legends Ian Tyson and Tom Russell, who said of the bearded killer, "He may be the last outlaw."

Dallas has served out the remainder of his original sentence in stints at prisons in Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. His current whereabouts and destination have not been released by prison officials, who acknowledge that 22 years has not dulled the ire many Idahoans feel for Dallas.

But just how enamored was the rest of America with Dallas? In 1989, more than 300 fans (and plenty of picketers) packed into a Reno auction house to bid on his personal belongings, with all proceeds benefiting his defense fund. The highlights, according to AP stories at the time, included $1,250 being paid for Dallas's saddle, $225 for his well-worn boots and $25 for each of four petrified biscuits recovered from Dallas's bullet-addled trailer after a gunfight with police in 1982.

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