Real Name: Samuel Leroy Wodke
Aliases: Sam Wodke, Michael Almon
Wanted For: Murder, Robbery, Escape
Missing Since: January 8, 1994
Details: On November 27, 1985, the night before Thanksgiving, three men arrived at a grocery store in Greenville, South Carolina. The men were paroled armed robber Sam Wodke, convicted drug dealer Rusty Corvette, and Sam's son, Richard Wodke, and they planned to rob the store. That night, Sam Wodke and Corvette entered the store; Corvette put on a ski mask and demanded money from one of the managers. Wodke ordered everyone in the store to lay on the ground while Corvette took the money, totaling $8,000. Corvette then ordered everyone to the back of the store, but when some didn't move, he fired at some soda cans. Corvette and Wodke then left the store and returned to their car where Richard was waiting. As they left the store, two employees ran outside and wrote down the make and license plate number of the car.
When police officers learned of the robbery, they planned to set up a road block to trap the suspects. Within minutes, several officers began closing in on the robbers. One of the cars had officer Donald Eubanks and volunteer constable Valdon Keith. The two swung around and managed to get ahead of the robbers; before they could set up the roadblock, however, the robbers arrived. In order to get past Eubanks and Keith, Sam Wodke fired several shots at their patrol car. Sadly, forty-six-year-old Valdon Keith, a father of four, was killed almost instantly. Within forty-eight hours, authorities had arrested all three suspects. Sam Wodke, who was charged with first-degree murder, faced the death penalty.
While awaiting trial, Wodke and Corvette created a scheme wherein they would place the blame on Sam's own son Richard. In the end, however, Corvette turned on him; he and Richard both testified that Sam was the shooter. Sam Wodke was convicted of murder but was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Eight years later, on January 8, 1994, Wodke and another inmate, Danny Lail, were assigned to an unsupervised landscaping job on the prison grounds. Because it was Saturday, there was no mid-day head count. The convicts used a stolen hacksaw to gain access to an underground maintenance tunnel. The men had to slice through three wire gates, a steel door, and the rebar between two wire mesh gates. They had eight hours to get through everything before the night count. By 4:30PM, Wodke and Lail had made it to the boiler room. The trustees working there did not want to help the escapees, but they also did not get in their way. With just fifteen minutes to spare, Wodke and Lail escaped, driving a prison truck. Although authorities were able to arrest Lail one month later, Sam Wodke remains at large.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the March 22, 1996 episode. Wodke was also featured on America's Most Wanted.
Results: Captured. Immediately after the broadcast, a viewer contacted Unsolved Mysteries claiming that a former co-worker, Michael G. Almon, was actually Wodke. Authorities found a driver's license in Louisiana with that name; with that information, they were able to locate Almon at a rooming house in Morgan City, Louisiana. On March 30, 1996, Almon was arrested there and it was soon determined that he was, in fact, Sam Wodke. He was the 135th fugitive captured thanks to the show.
On April 4, 1996, Wodke was returned to prison and was given an extra twenty-five years to his life sentence. He died of a heart attack in August 2005 at the age of sixty. Meanwhile, Rusty Corvette served eleven years in prison and was released; in 1997, he died in a shootout with police during a botched robbery attempt.
- Sam Wodke at Unsolved Archive
- Man charged with murder in constable's shooting death
- Prosecutors seek death penalty in murder of state constable
- Wodke receives life sentence in constable's murder
- Thanksgiving Day robbery defendant gets 21 -year term
- Greenville fugitive jailed in Missouri
- Some SC Prison Escapees Still Loose
- Crime show to film segment on Wodke
- TV show to feature escaped Greenville killer
- Escaped convict caught in Louisiana after more than 2 years of freedom
- Charleston police kill man involved in '85 slaying of Greenville constable
- Convicted killer Wodke dies of heart attack in prison
- Convicted Killer Dies in Prison
- Valdon Keith at Officer Down Memorial Page
- Valdon Keith at Find a Grave