original article on Kansas City, Kansas, aka “The Dot,” below is another great article by Kevin Helliker from the Wall Street Journal. It’s a fascinating tale of Toby Phalen Young, one of the Dot’s most high profile, non-profit citizens. In animal circles, she was known as a “savior.” How could someone who seemingly had everything do something so stupid? You got me. All I can say is that her actions embody the old cliché, “I’m crazy in love with you.” The emphasis here is on the word crazy.As a follow-up to my
The Heart Has Its Reasons
By KEVIN HELLIKER
February 9, 2008; Page A1
For 46 years, Toby Phalen Young was a model of propriety.
Married to her high-school sweetheart since the age of 20, Ms. Young was a respected mother, business professional and philanthropist. She found homes for stray dogs and did volunteer work at a prison. She never even got a traffic ticket. Her siblings called her "goody two shoes."
Almost exactly two years ago, however, on the eve of Valentine's Day, Ms. Young used her volunteer status at Lansing Correctional Facility to smuggle out a convicted murderer. At age 27, John Manard had convinced the 48-year-old Ms. Young of his undying love for her. Before running off with him, she withdrew $42,000 from her retirement plan, purchased a getaway vehicle and packed it with her belongings. Her husband found a pair of pistols missing from their home, a discovery that turned the fugitive lovers into America's most-wanted couple.
Toby Phalen Young at Leavenworth Detention Center
The escape brought a parade of journalists into this blue-collar town across the river from glittering Kansas City, Mo. But nobody here could or would offer insight into the sudden wild streak of a community pillar who lived down the street from her parents in the only town she'd ever called home.
Even after federal authorities located the fugitives in a honeymoon cabin in Tennessee, Ms. Young's friends and loved ones reserved judgment. Many were convinced she had fallen under the spell of a manipulator at a vulnerable time, when her father was dying and Ms. Young herself was recovering from cancer.
"In the middle of a mid-life crisis, she got caught in the trap of a no-good rotten con artist," says Michael Peterson, a state legislator here who has known Ms. Young's family, the Phalens, since the 1950s. Adds her attorney, Michael Harris: "Toby is lucky not to be lying in a ditch in Appalachia with a bullet in her head."
Yet in Ms. Young's account, the first she has offered publicly since her arrest two years ago, Mr. Manard didn't wrong her and never would have. "Everybody wants me to hate him, but I don't," she says, visibly embarrassed to be sitting on the inmate side of plexiglass, a telephone pressed to her ear.
Her guilty pleas to felony charges in state court in 2006 and federal court last year offered no insight into the motivation behind her crimes, and she never provided any to the media -- in part, she says, for fear no one would understand. She cites a quote, from French philosopher Pascal, that she recently came across in prison, where she reads a book a day: "The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of."
Her husband of 28 years, a fire captain named Patrick Young, has rejected all requests for interviews. For this article, he declined to return calls placed to his home, his cell phone and his place of work. "I want to assure you that no matter what may come of this, it will remain a private and personal matter," Mr. Young said in a statement to the media following Ms. Young's arrest.
In a prison cell elsewhere in Kansas, meanwhile, Mr. Manard professes his love for her. "I miss her so much, I'd have to wipe out an entire rainforest to put it on paper," he said in a recent letter to The Wall Street Journal.
The felonies that cost Ms. Young her home, marriage, financial security and freedom might never have occurred if she had shared her unhappiness with someone other than an inmate seeking to woo her. But she had lived her life according to a family credo, she says: "Phalens don't complain. Phalens suck it up."
Even by those standards, Ms. Young's father, James Phalen, stood out. At age 27, he nearly died in a fire that burned off his ears and hospitalized him for six months. Upon discharge, he could barely move his arms, so tight was his scalded flesh. Returning to his job as a machinist at the railroad, however, he didn't seek work that would accommodate this limitation. Instead, he sought the most-hated job on his shift -- crawling under an engine and reaching up to replace its brake shoes -- for the purpose of painfully forcing that skin to stretch. It was a story he sometimes told when he heard his children complaining.
Of the seven Phalen children, none took it to heart more than the oldest, Toby. "'Great' was the only answer Toby ever gave to 'How's it going?'" says her youngest sister, Amy Phalen, an Arkansas housewife.
Toby Phalen Young awaits her sentencing in 2006
At the Catholic high school where her grandmother had been a teacher and her father a football standout, Ms. Young is still remembered as the pep-club president, a straight-A student and the steady girlfriend of a baseball star named Pat Young. A good-looking kid from a troubled part of town, Pat hung out so often in the Phalen house that Toby's younger siblings say they considered him a brother. "Shy, quiet, polite," is how Ms. Phalen, Toby's sister, describes her former brother-in-law, whom she says she loves.
At age 20, Pat and Toby married. Of the 200 members of the Bishop Ward High class of 1975, dozens married their high-school sweethearts. These unions in part reflected a belief in church teachings: When a Bishop Ward couple started thinking about having sex, marriage was the right thing to do. And among her siblings, Toby was known as fanatical about doing the right thing. "She was less like a sister than like a third parent," says Ms. Phalen.
Pat became a fireman, Toby a secretary. They bought a house not far from her parents and had three children within seven years. The middle child, their only daughter, died a few hours after birth.
Ms. Young says her method of handling that setback, and hardship generally, was to stay busy. While raising two sons and working full-time, she attended college at night and obtained two undergraduate business degrees. She landed a job at Sprint Corp., where she became a project manager specializing in systems analysis. "Toby figured out a way to make any process more efficient," says Steven Smith, a tax expert who worked with Ms. Young on several projects at Sprint.
In 2001, she was earning a six-figure income as a member of a project at Sprint called ION, an attempt to bundle telephone and Internet services. But the attacks of 9/11 rocked the economy at a time when Sprint was already reeling from the failure of its proposed merger with MCI WorldCom Inc. In October 2001, Sprint killed the ION project and laid off most of ION's work force, ending Ms. Young's 14-year career at the company.
Reeling from the loss of her executive dreams, she bounced around: She started a Web-design venture with her 20-something son, enrolled in nursing school, began working part time at a veterinary clinic. Then a lump on her neck turned out to be thyroid cancer. In March of 2004, she underwent surgery.
This glimpse of her mortality evoked in her a desire for meaningful work, and her mind turned to dogs. Rescuing, training and showing dogs had been a life-long avocation. At the veterinary clinic where she worked, she became aware of the large number of strays around Kansas City that got exterminated for lack of adoptive owners. So she broached the idea of starting a dog-adoption service.
John Manard displays his tattoos in photo taken by Kansas Department of Corrections.
A fellow clinic employee, whose husband worked at Lansing Correctional Facility, a nearby state prison, suggested Ms. Young consider using prisoners to train stray dogs. Around the country, so-called cell-dog programs had been shown to reduce inmate violence and convert doomed canines into adoptable pets.
A visit to the warden's office at Lansing Correctional Facility convinced Ms. Young the idea would work. Going onto the Internet, she downloaded the documents needed to create a non-profit, which she called the Safe Harbor Prison Dog Program. She enlisted volunteers and raised money. Within a year, the program trained and found homes for nearly 700 strays.
These penitentiary pooches became famous across the Midwest, attracting dog seekers to the suburban Kansas City PetSmart store where Ms. Young held adoption fairs on weekends. Violence diminished inside the prison, officials said, in part because many inmates wanted to share their cells with a dog, and obtaining one required good behavior.
The program brought a new kind of publicity to an institution known for four decades as the harsh setting of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." In media outlets ranging from television and talk radio to newspapers and pet publications, the dog program generated coverage that made prison officials look progressive and hardened criminals humane. "Part of your heart goes into each dog," Leslie Ellifritz, a convicted murderer and rapist, told the Associated Press.
Manard and Young at Lansing Correctional Facility in 2005 before his escape.
The publicity turned Ms. Young into one of Kansas City's highest-profile nonprofit executives. In animal-control circles, she became known as a savior. "Toby took the lame, the ugly, the dogs nobody else wanted," says Karen Sands, shelter director of the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City.
But privately, she was coming unglued. The sense of well-being she'd always received from striving non-stop eluded her now, she says, and in an attempt to regain it, she worked all the harder. When she wasn't collecting strays or training inmates or updating her Web site with photos of adoptable canines, she was writing her weekly newsletter or cleaning the kennel behind her house, where 15 or so dogs awaited transfer to prison.
Yet staying busy no longer warded off a sense of despair and alienation, Ms. Young recalls. Her achievements -- no matter how celebrated -- seemed inadequate to her, because thousands of local dogs continued to be exterminated each year. Behind the wheel of the Safe Harbor cargo van, she says she increasingly found herself battling the impulse to steer into oncoming traffic.
At times, Mr. Manard wrote directly to Ms. Young in letters he sent to Mr. Helliker. Click to see a larger version.
Only during visits behind bars did she find any relief. In a fortress packed with men, her appearance at age 47 drew more compliments than she'd received at 27, and not just from inmates. One guard, she says, always greeted her by saying, "Hey, beautiful." Inmates worshipped her for being able to place a dog in their cells.
In particular, she enjoyed her dealings with Mr. Manard, partly, she says, because he challenged her. Early on, he good naturedly questioned her argument that positive reinforcement, rather than discipline, produced the best-trained pets. But after agreeing to eliminate "no" from his dog-handling vocabulary, he became an ace, she says, his charges exhibiting good behavior and happy dispositions long after adoption.
Mr. Manard says he loved handling menacing beasts, such as an American bulldog named Kane, that entered prison snarling and left licking hands.
In his first interview on the subject of their courtship and escape, Mr. Manard says he never imagined Ms. Young would take interest in him. "I respected her -- she was like Mother Teresa -- and I was careful not to cross any lines," said Mr. Manard, in a collect call from a maximum-security cell in El Dorado, Kan.
Ms. Young says Mr. Manard began offering tips on how to handle this guard, that inmate or some logistical problem. She says she watched him defuse tension between inmates. "Like a great corporate manager, he could turn people his way without creating resentment, by persuading them that his idea was theirs," she says.
Mr. Manard says he marveled at her innocence. At age 47, she told him she'd never been drunk, smoked a cigarette, tried drugs or watched pornography -- lines he had crossed by 14, at which age he was living in a juvenile detention center, he says. A tattoo across his torso said: "Hooligan."
But by age 27, he was different, he told her. Behind bars, he'd obtained his high-school equivalency diploma, taught himself to play several instruments and joined a prison band. He eventually won release to medium-security from maximum-security status. "His disciplinary history had improved from the time that he was first incarcerated," says Bill Miskell, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, noting that Mr. Manard "qualified for the privilege to participate" in the dog program. At the time, about 70 of the prison's nearly 2,500 inmates were involved in that program.
Yet Mr. Manard suspected no amount of reform would ever win him freedom, he told Ms. Young. At age 17 he'd received a life sentence for his role in a car-jacking that left a passenger fatally shot. By Mr. Manard's calculations, the earliest he would gain parole would be 2028, and he felt certain hewouldn't win it even then. His biggest fear, he says, was that he'd be buried on prison grounds.
All this, he told Ms. Young, for a crime he never committed. As an adolescent, he says he'd been a "self-centered adrenalin junkie," and not because his parents hadn't taught him right from wrong. "My life wasn't taken from me -- I gave it away [by] stealing the guy's car," he says.
Yet he says he didn't shoot anybody. He hadn't even been carrying a gun, he says, asserting that his older accomplice accidentally pulled the trigger. "I would never kill anyone," Mr. Manard told her.
Paul Morrison, the prosecutor in the case, says he believes that Mr. Manard didn't pull the trigger. But he says that the felony-murder law in Kansas renders that issue irrelevant, because Mr. Manard participated in a crime that clearly had the potential to turn violent. Prosecutors say felony murder, besides being a deterrent, avoids the legal gridlock that occurs when defendants endlessly point fingers at each other.
Felony murder is a concept that many other nations -- and some American states -- have abolished as unfair. Going online, Ms. Young researched the subject and concluded Mr. Manard had a point. "If you didn't kill anybody, you shouldn't be convicted of murder and sent to prison for life," she says.
Sympathy also flowed the other way. Mr. Manard could tell she was unhappy, she says, and his concern was particularly helpful when her father, a loving and powerful figure in her life, was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. Mr. Manard also asked about her marriage: Why was she spending 50 hours a week inside a prison?
Ms. Young says she replied that nearly 30 years of marriage had created a bond between her and her husband that wasn't measurable in hours-per-week spent together. "He's the only man I ever dated," she said, reciting an oft-rehearsed line that she thought sounded romantic.
For years a spinner of fictitious tales of domestic bliss, Ms. Young recalls a letter she wrote regaling relatives with the story of a salsa-making fiasco that dissolved in laughter between her and her husband. "It never happened," she says. "But it was how I wished our marriage was." Instead, she felt the marriage was bereft of affection.
On occasion, she broached the subject of divorce, but says her husband laughed and said she had nothing to complain about. He never hit her, wasn't a drunk and didn't cheat, she says. He brought home a fire-captain's salary. She suspected such factors would sway her parents and siblings, who regarded Mr. Young as a son or brother.
"I didn't see any way out," she says.
At the prison, Mr. Manard endlessly asked her: "What's wrong?" Often, she answered that she felt obliged to please too many people, including her husband. Gradually, she confided her marital woes. Mr. Manard suggested that she obtain one of those bracelets that say "WWJD," for "What Would Jesus Do?" Instead of Jesus, however, Mr. Manard suggested that she ask herself, "What would John do?"
In times of stress, Ms. Young says she started asking herself that.
He began wooing her. When he raved about the way her hair color matched her eyes, the creaminess of her skin, her taste in clothes, "it was like water on a dying plant," she says.
A turning point in their relationship came in October 2005, both say, when an inmate threatened her.
After that, Ms. Young says she refused to return without protection. She says an officer in the warden's office responded by appointing Mr. Manard her unofficial protector. "He said John would accompany me everywhere I went inside," she says.
Prison officials acknowledge Ms. Young reported a threat. But Mr. Miskell, the state corrections department spokesman, says prison officials didn't -- and never would -- appoint an inmate to protect a volunteer or visitor.
No one disputes that the two spent hours together or that Ms. Young had extraordinary access inside the prison. When two of her sisters came along one day, they quickly insisted on leaving, alarmed to find themselves surrounded by inmates without a guard nearby, recalls Ms. Phalen, Toby's sister. Ms. Young's former Sprint colleague, Mr. Smith, had a similar reaction when he tagged along with her to inmate cells, no guard in sight.
"Frankly, it kind of freaked me out," says Mr. Smith, who provided tax services to the dog program. "I told Toby, 'I'm not coming back.'"
Mr. Miskell, the corrections department spokesman, says, "People who tour facilities for the first time are often taken off-guard by the amount of movement and interaction between inmates and others." He says those who work or volunteer in a correctional facility must meet necessary training requirements, as Ms. Young did.
In rare moments of solitude behind bars, Ms. Young and Mr. Manard professed their love. He told her he wanted to be with her every day, forever. She told him that she'd never felt this way about anybody, that just talking with him fulfilled something vital in her. In December of 2005, he asked whether Ms. Young would run off with him, if he managed to escape?
"I would," she replied.
Mr. Manard says he asked that as a joke, but her reply turned escape into an obsession. He focused his thoughts on fitting into a box. Stretching himself to become more limber, and dropping nearly 30 pounds to a weight of 155, Mr. Manard tried without success to squeeze his 6-foot-2-inch frame into the box. But one night, he says, he dreamed of a way to pretzel into it. Trying it the next morning, he found it worked.
Originally, both say, he was determined to mail himself out of prison. But she argued that plan would never work. Getting past the gates was unlikely, since a heart-beat detector is generally applied to cargo trucks. Then Mr. Manard broached the idea of sneaking out in Ms. Young's van, which often didn't undergo heart-beat detection.
His plan: When she pulled up to collect dogs, Mr. Manard would be hiding in the box, inside a dog crate that also contained food bowls and other supplies. The inmates who always loaded dog crates into the van would -- unknowingly, he said -- load him into her van. Then the two would flee for parts unknown.
Ms. Young says she agreed to the plan without allowing herself to consider the consequences. As laid out, it seemed to involve minimal complicity on her part, she says. "I wouldn't be loading him into the van. I'd just be pulling up to collect dogs the way I always did on Sunday morning," she says.
As part of the plan, she drained $42,000 from her retirement plan, bought a 1997 Chevrolet pickup as a getaway vehicle and hid it in a rented storage unit.
Using a contraband cellphone inside prison, Mr. Manard rented a cabin in rural Tennessee. In the month before their breakout, he and Ms. Young communicated 12,000 minutes by phone, she says. One morning, Ms. Young says, her husband fished her vibrating phone from her purse and found a text message that read: "good morning, baby. I love you."
"That's a wrong number," Ms. Young told her husband.
She says her husband responded that he didn't consider her sexually capable of having an affair.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 12, the phone rang in the home of Ms. Young's parents. Peggy Phalen, Ms. Young's mother, recalls being told that an inmate was missing from prison and Ms. Young had failed to show at that morning's adoption fair at Pet-Smart. Terror struck that she'd been taken hostage. "We prayed for the best but feared the worst," she says.
Within hours, though, evidence of Ms. Young's complicity emerged -- her missing belongings, the money taken out of her retirement fund -- and by Valentine's Day, federal authorities were calling her role incontrovertible.
In Tennessee, meanwhile, the fugitives spent Valentine's Day in their cabin, exchanging gifts: She bought him a bass guitar. He bought her a parakeet, that he named Lynyrd, a reference to Lynyrd Skynyrd's song, "Freebird." They made love, talked for hours and planned outings. On Feb. 24, they toured an aquarium, and saw an IMAX movie about lions and stopped at Barnes & Noble, where Mr. Manard bought Ms. Young one of his favorite books, "Where the Red Fern Grows," a tale of a boy who trains hunting dogs.
After they left the bookstore, authorities spotted them. Following a short chase, they were arrested.
As the image of Ms. Young, handcuffed and bewildered, flashed across TV screens around the nation, her husband refused to utter any public criticism of her. His subsequent request for an emergency divorce didn't cite grounds. A judge here quickly granted it.
In a letter to a Kansas City television station, Mr. Manard described his 12 days with Ms. Young as the high point of his life. Even after receiving an extra decade of prison time for the escape, Mr. Manard says in an interview that it was worthwhile.
"I got to meet an angel who for some reason graced me with her love," he says.
Lost amid the weepy guilty pleas of Ms. Young was what happened immediately after the escape. She and Mr. Manard stopped at her home, so that she could place in her backyard kennel the adoption-ready dogs in her van. She says she knew other volunteers in the prison program would find homes for the dogs. "After rescuing them once, I wasn't going to ditch them in a field," she says.
While she was unloading the dogs, Mr. Manard -- who was supposed to be hiding in the front of the van -- says he slipped into the house and grabbed a pair of handguns. Ms. Young says she never wanted to bring the guns or even touched them. ("I hate guns. I'm 100% for gun control," she says.) But federal prosecutor Terra Morehead says that even if this story were true, which she doubts, it wouldn't diminish Ms. Young's guilt.
Her 27-month sentence forced Ms. Young to ponder the damage her betrayal wrought upon loved ones, including her grown sons, one of whom she says hasn't spoken to her since her arrest. Her father died two months later, after granting her forgiveness, she says. "I've told Toby that her father may have died sooner because of what she did, and she just has to live with that," says her mother, a retired Catholic-college administrator who visits Ms. Young weekly in prison.
Upon completing her sentence this May, Ms. Young says she expects the repair of shattered trust with loved ones to take a while. She plans to live with her mother and wants to work at a book store.
She doesn't miss the life she lost, she says, asserting that the humiliation and deprivations of prison have been beneficial. Long dismissive of psychotherapy, she now praises the prison therapists who, initially placing her on suicide watch, began treating her for depression.
She refuses to endorse the theory that she is the brainwashed victim of a self-serving convict. She says she believes John Manard loved her, that he escaped to be with her, that he is a reformed man worthy of freedom. When legally able to make contact with him, she says she will do so.
Her deepest regret is that his lengthened sentence may keep him behind bars for life. Her voice breaking, she says, "I wonder if he'd be better off if he'd never met me."
©2008 Wall Street Journal