Real Name: Richard Alan Cepulonis
Aliases: None known
Wanted For: Armed Robbery, Attempted Murder, Escape
Missing Since: September 20, 1987
Details: On January 13, 1985, after an intense eight-year courtship, twenty-nine-year-old Karen Walters and thirty-eight-year-old Richard Cepulonis were married. She was a dedicated special education teacher. Shy and unassuming, she still lived at home with her mother and sister. It was the happiest day of her young life. For him, it may have been something different. Perhaps, nothing more than a means to an end. He was a career criminal, serving time for bank robbery and armed assault with the intent to murder. His sentence was fifty-eight to eighty-two years, a long time to think about the crime that had put him behind bars.
On August 9, 1973, Cepulonis and two accomplices struck in Wooburn, Massachusetts. They burst into a bank carrying automatic weapons. One jumped over the counter, while the other two pointed their weapons at bank executive Jack Beauchamp. One was in front of him and one was behind him. They demanded him to open the bank safe; however, he could not do that because it was on a timer. One of the robbers placed his weapon under Jack’s chin. However, they then decided to leave. Before doing so, they told Jack that if they saw a cop outside, they would kill the cop and then come back and kill him.
The robbers made off with more than $17,000 in cash. A silent alarm brought an unmarked police unit to the bank within seconds. Jack told detective John Gibbons which way the robbers went in their getaway car. He was able to catch up to their car and pursue them for several miles. One of the robbers stuck his gun out the window and fired at Gibbons. He responded by firing two warning shots into the air. To create a diversion, the robbers pulled in front of the car in front of them and opened fire on that car’s driver. The driver, a sixty-year-old woman, was shot and wounded. It gave the robbers just enough time to escape.
Two months later, Cepulonis was tracked down in New York City. He was convicted by a court in Massachusetts and remanded to Walpole State Prison, a maximum security facility. Despite his penchant for violence on the outside, he became a model citizen on the inside. Over the next five years, he was “good as gold”, a perfect inmate. Then, he met Walters. At the time, she was attending William Patterson College in her home state of New Jersey. She was doing a college project which involved writing to prisoners. By chance, she selected Cepulonis.
As time passed, Walters and Cepulonis continued to write letters to each other. One day, she decided to visit him. The two seemed to hit it off well, and she began to visit him more often. Prison administrator Mike Corsini believes that inmates often take advantage of people out in the community. Often times, they will latch onto women who are lonely and want attention. They will then take advantage of them. However, the women will often enjoy the attention and not realize that they are being taken advantage of. Corsini assumes that Cepulonis’ relationship with Walters was being conducted in a similar manner.
Sheila Isenberg has researched cases of women who fall in love with men in prison. She notes that a man on the outside has a job, friends, and other commitments that prevent him from focusing on his partner completely. But a man on the inside who is serving a long prison sentence can be completely focused on his partner. As a result, she will feel very special, desired, and wanted. It elevates their “romance” to a very high level.
By 1980, Walters was, in effect, leading a double life. She was teaching learning disabled children and was highly regarded by her fellow faculty members. None of them knew she was in love with a convict. Meanwhile, Cepulonis continued his winning ways. He excelled academically and became the first inmate at Walpole to earn a college degree. In fact, he received two degrees. In 1985, Walters married Cepulonis, even though he had served less than a third of his sentence.
Two years later, Cepulonis’ model behavior would pay off in a big way. He was transferred to a minimum security facility. Corsini described him as very bright and personable; he believes that other staff may have let their guard down as a result of his behavior. Cepulonis’ new home was literally a prison without bars. Walters could now visit unsupervised almost whenever she wanted, but with this new freedom came the ultimate temptation: escape and living a life together.
It would be ten months before Walters was “ready”. The trigger was an incident where she and Cepulonis were caught allegedly having sex on the prison grounds. As a result, she was indefinitely barred from visiting him. Three weeks later, on the morning of September 20, 1987, she apparently drove to an isolated spot about a mile from the prison. In her pocket: $20,000 in cash, her entire life savings. At around noon, Cepulonis appeared. He had simply walked away from the prison guards.
Walters had made her choice. She left behind her career and her family for the life of a fugitive, on the run with Cepulonis. She has been charged with aiding and abetting a felon. Authorities believe that the two are still together. On the day of his escape, he reportedly left a taunting message for a Massachusetts State Trooper. He said, "Tell him Richard called, and tell him he can call me at home." To this day the authorities have no idea where "home" is.
- This case first aired on the March 15, 1996 episode; it was updated on the November 15, 1996 episode.
- Other cases of inmates whose escapes were helped by their lovers include: Jon Yount, Edgar Kerns, and Michael Wayne Brown.
Results: Captured. After a repeat broadcast, a viewer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who had done business with the couple recognized Walters’ photograph. They were using the names "Thomas and Debbie Langstone" and living in a house in St. Paul. A task force, which included the local police and FBI was mobilized and the house was staked out. On October 1, 1996, officers observed Cepulonis leave his residence and drive to a nearby convenience store. Once he pulled into the parking lot and got out of his vehicle, one of the task force members approached him, drew his weapon, and ordered Cepulonis not to move. Other task force members joined in and assisted in arresting him.
Walters was picked up twenty minutes later. For eight years, she and Cepulonis had completely fooled their neighbors. They could not believe that Walters or Cepulonis would be involved in any wrongdoing. A bag of robbery paraphernalia found inside the hideout gave authorities a much different impression. Inside the bag were a face mask, gun, rubber gloves, and a large amount of cash in small bills. This led authorities to believe that Cepulonis had been involved in other, more recent robberies.
Walters and Cepulonis were extradited back to Massachusetts. She was charged with aiding and abetting a felon. She spent several months in a women’s correctional facility for her role in the escape. He was returned to prison to finish out his sentence. He also served time on escape charges. Both have since been released; they are still married.
- Richard Cepulonis on Unsolved Archive
- Crime Roundup - January 17, 1974
- Commonwealth vs. Cepulonis - February 24, 1978
- Inmates can register to vote while jailed - August 17, 1983
- Police ask help finding 10 - make that 9 - most wanted - October 13, 1993
- Pender prison looks good on film, again - January 30, 1996
- 9-year fugitive is captured in St. Paul; Viewer saw the Massachusetts escapee on TV show - October 2, 1996
- Fugitive caught after TV show tip - October 2, 1996
- '87 Mass. escapee arrested in Minn. - October 2, 1996
- Escaped Massachusetts bank robber, wife apprehended in Minnesota - October 3, 1996
- Fugitive arrested in St. Paul - October 6, 1996
- Escapee returns to Mass. custody - October 11, 1996
- Cepulonis vs. Commonwealth - April 21, 2006