Byline: Joline Gutierrez Krueger of the tribune
Billy Clair Killingsworth drifter, drunkard, child rapist escaped from his New Mexico prison cell 24 years ago. This spring, he showed up in a peanut-steeped corner of Alabama. But, no, nobody knows him. No, no, you can't fathom who he is. A life out of place
DOTHAN, Ala. For 24 years no one could find prison escapee Billy Clair Killingsworth save for his ghosts and the devil deep in too many bottles of booze.
But he was lost long before then.
At a time when a man's life should have been as set as white socks in a drawer, Killingsworth stumbled into life's whiskey-stained back alleys, breaking the hearts of three wives and three children and shaming his mama when in 1971 he failed to show for his father's funeral.
Then in 1977 when it seemed he could not drink himself any deeper, Killingsworth fell further into cruel abandon by molesting a grade school girl he plucked from a warm Albuquerque spring day.
The few who knew him can't say for sure what tormented the man so much that it drove him to turn life into rubble like that.
"I guess," his brother Max said, "he just went bad."
Killingsworth, then 42, was given two consecutive life sentences in 1977 for the rape, and perhaps he should have been content to rot silently in prison, unnoticed by a world he shunned long ago.
But three years after the cell bars clanged shut behind him at the Penitentiary of New Mexico near Santa Fe, Killingsworth staged an escape that still baffles prison officials.
He remained in that oblivion for 24 years until this past April when for a stunning moment he shed his aliases and admitted who he was in a crowded Motor Vehicle Department office in Dothan, Ala.
Officials there have tracked his secret life back only as far as 1997 to Panama City, Fla. And even then they're not sure if that's credible. The trail is so cluttered with fake names and phony addresses and connections to no one save for a mysterious tattooed woman who called him a drinking buddy.
The truth is, no one knows where he lived or how he lived or why he kept running even when it seemed no one cared enough to find him.
And no one knows how he could have slipped up so easily after living under the radar for so long.
"It's strange that after all these years he would try to use his real name," Alabama State Trooper …