Special Report: 58 years after escape, convict still being sought

By Harve Jacobs, Live 5 News

REMBERT, SC (WCSC) - You might call Herbert Simmons a Lowcountry legend, because he did something that no other state prisoner has ever been able to do.

Simmons escaped and has avoided capture for 58 years.

Simmons was arrested in 1949 for breaking into a house. He was convicted and sent  to the Wateree Correctional Institution. About about a year into that sentence, he got the urge to get up and go. And one day he managed to escape from the 7,000 acre farm, never to be seen again.

"My assumption is he was out there on a job assignment, and just left from the job assignment when officers weren't looking over him," Corrections Department Inspector General Daniel Murphy said.

Murphy believes at the time, Simmons was ahead of the communications curve.

"It was before the age of cell phones, and probably radio communications as it is in modern days," Murphy said. "I don't know what was in his mind back in 1950, when he escaped, but he could have served his time and been well out, never had to the state of South Carolina looking for him again."

At the time of his escape, Simmons was married and lived on Johns Island. Today he would be 85 years old. But even after all these years, there's been no sightings of Simmons, and no tips from the public.

"Even back then, whether it was a $25 reward or a $50 reward, that was a lot of money back in the early 50's. I think somebody may have turned him in," Murphy said.

Authorities say it's possible Simmons either walked or hitched a ride from the town of Rembert, where the prison is located, all the way down to his hometown of Johns Island.

And they are not ruling out the possibility that Simmons might be dead and buried on Johns Island. In fact from time to time they come back to the island checking graveyards.

"Above the ground or below the ground, we're gonna see what we can do," Murphy said.

I decided to do my own detective work. I found some Johns Island residents named Simmons and showed them a copy of his wanted poster. But none of those folks heard of the escapee.

Investigators doubt Simmons has been laughing at them all these years.

"No not really, maybe on the inside. But I don't think he'd be bragging too much to people on the outside," Murphy said.

But then again, maybe Simmons still is bragging about his escape, and for now, the legend of  Herbert Simmons lives on.

Corrections officials tell us right now there are four other escapees on their radar. Two are believed to be in Canada, one is known to be in New York, and the fourth is believed to be dead.