A Woman In Prison
" In The Wind " by Jackie Brown
Speaking of escaping from prison....It's funny how rare that is, but it does happen. Excuse me while I hit this blunt. Truth is, I can't write about Theresa Greta without having a buzz on. Yeah that's it...Now, where was I?
The moment I saw Greta that night, I knew she was about to bolt. She had on jeans, jean jacket and tennis shoes. But that's not how I knew she was about to run. It was subtle movements that no one else would notice; gently swaying from side to side, eyes moving a bit more than usual and a look that said she was already in the wind. Theresa Greta was about to escape, again.
Out of the 250 women in prison then, only 5 were white. Greta was one of those white women and had been there for 5 years when I got sentenced to California State. Well actually, she had only been inside for 3 years and spent the other 2 years on the run.
Greta was already a legend in the prison system. She was determined to be free in spite of having a Life sentence. Even male prisoners knew about her and how she would scale that 13 foot fence like a doe running from hunters.
I've been out of prison for many years now, but in my mind, I still see her as she was then. Back then Greta was 25, pretty, tall, had serious curves for a white girl and acted so black that even she thought she was. She was Italian, got a very dark tan in the summer, was popular and had only one thing on her mind; FREEDOM!
I knew she had a life sentence, but I never asked what she was in for. It was only after I was free for several years that I read about Greta, her background and why she was in prison.
But let me back up and tell you about Greta inside. First of all, everyone called her by her last name. Her last name had more bite to it than Theresa. Usually when women in prison are called by their last name, they're studs, but not Greta. She was very feminine.
Everyone liked her, except for the guards on duty whenever she escaped. After they were reprimanded, they forgave her I guess. Maybe they understood that it wasn't personal. When Greta had to go, she had to go!
Between escaping and after she got off lock-up, Greta was in the regular population. She always had the best room, weed, food and good conversation. At any given time, there'd be so many women in her room, that you had to make advanced reservations to get a spot.
She was one of the lucky inmates that had regular visits from her twin sister and men that loved her. They made sure she had plenty of weed, food, clothes and money. And there was always someone waiting on the other side when she escaped.
Greta left once and stayed out for over a year. The whole time she was in the Caribbean Islands and showed us pics of her time on the run. She got caught when she returned to the U.S. by boat to pick up supplies. Her tan was so dark that the Port police thought she was Mexican and asked to see ID. When she failed to produce any, they detained her, ran her prints....
When she returned to prison, she was tan with blond streaks in her hair, wearing low rider jeans and flip flops. She looked good...except for the hand cuffs and leg cuffs attached to a chain around her waist. You would have thought she was Hannibal Lector by the way they had her chained down. It was sad seeing her back, but we knew she'd be gone again the moment she got a chance.
The next time she left was the night I started telling you about in the beginning............
About 6 months after she was brought back, she was allowed to make a phone call. That meant going to the Administration building where the pay phones were. We called it "being up front'. I was also up front at the same time. The moment I saw her, I knew she was about to bolt.
Using my eyes, I signaled to find out if she needed any help. In turn, she barely moved her head to let me know she was good. Since she was a flight risk, a guard had to escort her everywhere. If needed, I would have distracted the guard by faking a heart attack or something, but it wasn't necessary.
On the way back to the housing unit, Greta took off running. While the guard was on the "walkie talkie" calling for back up, Greta was already at full speed, pealing off her jacket before she leaped onto that 13 ft fence.
I had to see what was going down, so I ducked into an empty hallway in the back of the building and watched the entire thing from a side window. She climbed that fence so fast I was stunned! What everyone said was true; Theresa took that fence like Spiderman crawling up the side of a building. I was witnessing it for myself!
When she got to the top of the fence, she slung her jacket over the bob wire, put one leg over, then the other. Leaving the jacket behind, Theresa went down the other side of the fence as quickly as she went up. Midway, with about 6 feet to go, she let herself drop to the ground.
For a moment I didn't see anything, then she got up and disappeared. WOW!
I could barely contain my excitement, butI went back to my room without saying a word. I didn't want prison officials to think I was involved in the escape, so I waited a whole week before telling other inmates what I had seen.
Unfortunately Greta only stayed out for a few months. Someone recognized her picture from the news and dropped a dime on her.
At one point, I was so sick of prison that I asked Greta to take me with her the next time she escaped. She told me NO! I only had a short time left and I would leave the right way. To this
day I thank her for talking me out of it. I waited and made parole.
I didn't forget Greta and other friends in prison once I was free. I had gotten a good job, so I was able to send them packages. Before I left, I let everyone know I was not going to smuggle weed in. I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize my freedom.
About a year after I was released, I was at work one morning when I got a phone call. Only 3 words were exchanged;
With that, I didn't hear anything from or about Greta for the next 20 years.
20 years later, I was clicking through channels on TV, when something on "America's Most Wanted" caught my eye. I never watched, but this time I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw who they were profiling; it was Theresa Greta.
The host, Adam Walsh was saying, "This woman has been on the run for 20 years. Let's put this fugitive back behind bars where she belongs!"
My stomach dropped to my feet. Without a doubt, I knew she'd be caught. A week later the news announced that she had been apprehended on the East Coast.
The LA Times followed up with a 3 page article on Greta. That's when I learned about her childhood and the crime she committed. The reporters rushed across country to interview her. They got the other information from her family, court and witnesses.
Theresa and her twin sister had been adopted by a very abusive couple when they were kids. The foster father raped both of them! When Greta was 12/13, she fought him back and they ran away. They left one hell and entered into another kind of hell.
Both girls were only 13 when Greta decided to strip to earn the money they needed for an apt, food, clothes...By age 19, she was a veteran of the red light district.
This particular episode was her down fall. Greta, her twin sister and a friend had been on a week long LSD binge. She said she had done LSD many times, but that was the first time she drank alcohol with it. They continued partying and went to a club one night. She had an issue with the Bouncer of the club.
Instead of leaving, Greta went back to her car, got a gun and shot the Bouncer dead.
She was sentenced to Life in prison for murder. Greta accepted her sentence and was remorseful but maintained that she did not remember shoting the man or anything that happened that whole week.
While she was on the run, she married and had a son. Her son was 19 by then. After living in the Islands for several years, they came back to the states and worked their way across country doing odd jobs, including running a farm. The owner of one farm saw Greta profiled on AMW, drove to their house to warn them. Greta decided to turn herself in. She did it for her son. He knew she was on the run, but now that every police in America was after her, she didn't want him to go through that.
On the next episode of AMW, they showed Theresa caught, handcuffed and being put in a police cruiser.
Adam Walsh was saying, "This fugitive knew she had no where to hide after her picture appeared on here, so she turned herself in without incident. Now let's put the rest of them behind bars too. If you recognize any of the people featured on tonight's show, call your local police or 1-800-...."
I sat there stunned and deeply sad. A week later is when the LA Times did the article about Greta. A couple of weeks later, the news reported that she was being extradited back to California, back to prison.
A million things went through my mind. I called to see if she was allowed visits. She was, but only from immediate family. In thestrangest way, I was relieved to hear that. It took away the burden of visiting her. I wanted to see Theresa, but 22 years had gone by and so much had changed.
A few more months went by, then a few years. When ever I think about her, I remember how young we use to be and how the wind still carries our life stories. I call the prison sometimes to inquire about her, but I never went to see her. So much time had went by, so much had changed.
Every time I hear a certain song, I think of Greta and the life she's had. In "Against The Wind" by Bob Seger, he says, "We were young and strong, and we were running Against The Wind..."
It's 2009. Theresa Greta is in her late 60's by now. I can almost hear her singing,
"Well, I'm older now and still running, Against The Wind...."