Famous Manhunts in American History

The successful hunt for the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect joins the ranks of other high-profile manhunts in U.S. history

One of the most extensive and chaotic manhunts in Boston history came to an end Friday night when the surviving marathon bombing suspect was captured alive after hiding out all day in a shrink-wrapped pleasure boat that was parked on the side of a suburban house.

Police were tipped off about 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's whereabouts when a resident of Watertown, Mass. stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and noticed a hole in his boat's covering. He peered inside and found what appeared to be, and turned out to be, a person, covered in blood.

Once police arrived, yet another shootout ensued, less than 24 hours after an explosive gun battle between suspects and authorities sent the manhunt into high gear. That gun fight led to the death of Dzhokhar's older brother and alleged accomplice, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was found with an improvized explosive device strapped to his chest. Tsarnaev escaped that scene on foot prompting a massive lockdown as police pursued their wanted man.

Below, see some of the other high-profile domestic manhunts in U.S. history:

Found dead: 2013

The hunt for Christopher Dorner, an ex-cop who was fired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008, began in early February when he was named as a suspect in the fatal shooting of the daughter of a former LAPD captain and her fiancée. Over the next few days he was named a suspect in the killing of two others—both LAPD officers—and jittery police wound up opening fire on three innocent people, two of whom suffered injuries.

The hunt intensified when Dorner’s truck was discovered abandoned near Big Bear Lake, prompting a door-to-door search by police. On Feb. 12 state wildlife officers encountered Dorner on the road and a shootout and chase ensued. One sheriff’s deputy died and another was injured in the confrontation.

Dorner was able to make it to a cabin where he barricaded himself and entered into a lengthy standoff with police. It all came to an fiery end when law enforcement officials filled the cabin with incendiary tear gas, setting the place ablaze. Dorner's charred remains were discovered inside with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Captured: 2011

James “Whitey” Bulger, a Boston gangster wanted for 19 murders, lived on the lam for 16 years before police tracked and arrested him and his longtime girlfriend in their Southern California apartment.

Bulger was working as an FBI informant when he went on the run in 1995 after learning that he would eventually face indictment. His girlfriend Catherine Grieg joined him and was charged in 1997 for harboring a fugitive.

The FBI revived its efforts to find the pair through a series of public service announcements in 2011 that focused mainly on Greig's affinity for beauty salons and animals. Shortly after the PSAs began airing a tip came in that led authorities to a Santa Monica home, where the pair was arrested “without incident.” Greig, who was 60 at the time of arrest, was sentenced to eight years in prison; Bulger, who was 81, was charged with participating in 19 murders and is awaiting trial.

Captured: 2003

Eric Robert Rudolph, the man behind the 1996 Olympic bombing in Atlanta, Ga., evaded police by hiding out in the Appalachian wilderness for years.  After carrying out the Olympic attack, which killed one person and wounded 111 others, he carried out several other bombings, targeting abortion clinics and a gay club.

His final attack in 1998 provided police with their first major lead: A witness who saw him flee the scene jotted down his license plate number, which gave police an identity to pursue. It took five years, however, before Rudolph was finally arrested in Murphy, North Carolina. He was found rummaging through the trash by a local policeman who had no idea at the time whom he had encountered. Rudolph is currently serving five consecutive life sentences.

Captured: 2002

For 23 days, a pair of gunmen who executed people at random spread terror throughout the Washington, D.C.-area. The invisible killers fired fatal shots at a man closing his pizzeria, a woman pumping gas, a man driving a bus, a woman reading in the park. Ten people were killed and three critically injured in the shooting spree before law enforcement officials were able to identify and capture two suspects.

Their break in the case came when a man claiming to be the sniper called investigators and essentially confessed to a crime he had carried out in Montgomery, Ala. Authorities in Alabama who had collected forensic evidence from that crime scene were able to help link the sniper to a dark blue Chevrolet Caprice sedan. Police and media urged the public to be on the lookout for the car, which was spotted at a rest stop off Interstate 70 in Maryland.

Police closed in and found two men sleeping in the car with a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle, a rifle’s scope, a digital voice recorder and other materials. The men, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, were arrested at the scene. In 2003 Muhammad was sentenced to death and Malvo was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences. Muhammad was executed in 2009.

Captured: 1996

Ted Kacinzsky’s 17-year bombing campaign prompted the FBI’s longest-running domestic terrorism investigation in the agency’s history. Beginning in 1978, the reclusive terrorist targeted a long list of universities, killing three people and injuring more than 20.

In 1996, acting on a tip from Kacinzsky’s brother who had read a manifesto Ted had published in the New York Times, FBI agents discovered the “Unabomber” at a crude cabin in Montana. He is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. 

Captured: 1995

The search for Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, lasted less than two hours. A state trooper pulled him over for driving without a license plate 80 miles north of Oklahoma City, shortly after he had fled the scene of the attack. The state trooper discovered a concealed weapon and placed him under arrest.

But neither the state trooper nor any other law enforcement officials yet knew that McVeigh was the man behind the bombing. More than a day would pass before a hotel employee would identify McVeigh from a police sketch. It took just one call to the FBI to find that the suspect was already in jail. He was sentenced to death in 1997 and executed by lethal injection in June 2001.

Captured: 1978

Theodore Robert Bundy, one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, murdered an average of one woman a month between January 1974 and February 1978. He was arrested in August of 1975 after police pulled him over and found an ice pick, handcuffs and pantyhose in his car, and later extradited him to Colorado where he faced other charges. Before that trial began, he leapt from the window of the courthouse library and was on the loose for six days before being captured once again.

But he didn't stay in custody for long. Six months after arriving at a Colorado jail he made another escape—this time by losing 30 pounds so he could fit into a light fixture hole in the ceiling of his cell. He made it across the country to Tallahassee, Fla. where his reign of terror continued.

There, he broke into a Florida State University sorority house in January 1978 and murdered two sleeping women, bludgeoning and strangling them to death. Weeks later he abducted and killed a 12-year-old girl—the final murder in his years-long spree. He was captured for good after police in Pensacola, Fla. found him driving a stolen car in February of 1978. He was convicted for the FSU murders and sentenced to death in June 1979. He was executed in 1989.


Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Parker, one of the most infamous couples in American history, were ambushed and killed by police in Louisiana after a brazen crime spree that captured the country’s attention. The pair was accused of 13 murders and a host of robberies around the country. Their run ended after police lured them into a trap: Police enlisted the help of an ex-con, one of Barrow’s former associates, who promised Barrow protection at his home. As the couple’s car sped into the trap, police ambushed them, sending the car careening off the road. Both were dead at the scene.

Killed: 1865

John Wilkes Booth fled Ford’s Theatre in Washington after carrying out the first assassination of an American president on April 14, 1865. He and an accomplice, David Herold, led authorities on a 12-day chase that ended in Virginia. Authorities offered a $100,000 reward for information that would lead to the capture of the brazen killer, and dispatched federal troops to search southern Maryland after receiving a tip that he might be in the area. Booth made several stops while on the lam, including his infamous stop at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd who treated Booth’s leg injury caused by his leap onto the theater’s stage. He was finally tracked to a Virginia farm and shot and killed by Union soldiers.

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