Anyone who spends much time as a reporter will visit quite a few prisons and hear many inmates' tales. I have talked to killers, gang leaders, bank robbers, drug dealers and rapists in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New Mexico, as well as Arizona.
I've witnessed the terror of prison riots in New Mexico and Illinois and the despair of the aftermath. I have sat and listened while shackled inmates attempted to con me into believing they were innocent men who were victims of a frame-up.
Once or twice, I even believed them.
Two years ago, I went down to Florence and wrote a story about a young man who had served more than ten years for his part in a murder committed while he was a teenager.
Now he was a grown man with skills developed in prison that made it possible for him to get a job on the outside. Settled happily into civilian life, he did two things.
First, he got married. Then he bumped into an old prison buddy whose expertise was bank robbery. He tried his hand at robbing a bank with his buddy. They got caught. Now he's back behind bars.
But this was the first time I went inside a prison to actually watch an inmate plead his case before a parole board.
For 19 years at Florence, Eric Mageary has been without a name. His number has been 332017.
Briefly, his name surfaced in the newspapers during the famous escape from prison of the Gary Tison gang.
Mageary had befriended serial killer Randy Greenawalt while both were in the Coconino County Jail awaiting trial. Greenawalt was charged with killing four truck drivers.
Greenawalt developed a romance with Mageary's mother, Kathy Ehrmentraut, who viewed Greenawalt as misunderstood. Greenawalt and Mrs. Ehrmentraut began exchanging letters, and she regularly visited both her son and Greenawalt at the prison in Florence.
The Tison gang, which included Greenawalt, escaped from Florence on July 30, 1978. The men killed seven people in a rampage that ranged across Arizona and neighboring states until they were stopped just short of the Mexican border.
During this time, Greenawalt brought them to hide out in Mrs. Ehrmentraut's home in Flagstaff. For this she was later charged with conspiracy and placed on probation for a year.
Greenawalt, who killed several more people during the escape, is now on death row. Gary Tison died in the desert. His two sons, Ricky and Ray Tison, who helped him escape, are also now on death row.
Mageary has spent most of his time in prison lifting weights, collecting wives--he is now on his seventh--and attempting to convince the parole board he is a changed man.
Mageary was convicted of first-degree rape in 1974. He was sentenced to 25 years to life for a crime police described at the time as being so vicious it was "a failed murder."
Mageary met a young woman in a Flagstaff bar on a winter's night and offered her a ride to her car. Once he got her into his truck, Mageary drove the woman, then a virgin, to a secluded spot and not only raped her, but almost beat her to death with his fists.
Her jaw was shattered. One ear was almost bitten off. A breast was nearly severed by a sharp instrument. He left her in critical condition. Then he came back and beat her again.
Patricia Pollard has never recovered from the terror of that night. While Mageary has been in prison, she has been in one created by her own mind and her dreadful memories.
She has spent her 19 years as a shadowy figure who deliberately sought not to excel in any job, because it might attract attention to her. She left Arizona.
She changed her name, fearful that if Mageary ever got out of prison, he might find her again. She has never been able to trust anyone, and moves frequently from place to place.
Her jaw is still disfigured. She wears a wig, she says, because she does not want anyone to recognize her. Unmarried, she still feels shame, she says, believing that people must somehow blame her for what happened.
Mageary has been before the parole board 23 times. In his most recent hearing, the board decided to release him to what is called home arrest.
But Terry Hance, the Coconino County attorney, protested the decision. He contacted Governor J. Fife Symington III. Hance also sent Fred Newton, his chief deputy, to the state Court of Appeals seeking to stay the release. Newton, one of the top prosecuting attorneys in the state, was successful.