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On June 6, 1975, a helicopter appeared over Jackson Prison and landed in the exercise yard. A lone inmate ran to the aircraft and jumped in, and the chopper lifted off and flew away.

The daring escape plan was the brainchild of Dale Otto Remling, a con artist who was serving time at Jackson for passing bad checks. It was not his first crime nor his first prison escape.

Remling was born in 1928 in Oklahoma. In 1955 he was convicted of identity theft and check fraud in California and sent to Soledad Prison. He managed to escape but was caught after three days and sent back to Soledad, where he served out his sentence.

Apparently Remling was not rehabilitated, because in 1971 he stole an airplane and again was tried, convicted and sent back to Soledad. He managed to escape yet again, and drifted up to Montcalm County, Michigan, where he adopted an alias, married and gained the confidence of the community. “He was a very nice fellow, and everyone liked him,” noted his father-in-law.

Remling soon returned to his felonious ways when he and a partner went to Nebraska and hijacked a truckload of nearly 400 hogs from a farmer. Unable to find a buyer for the pigs, Remling returned to Michigan and his career as a check forger. He was arrested and sentenced in 1973 to ten years at Jackson Prison for theft of livestock and check fraud.

By 1975, Remling had had enough of prison life and had plotted yet another escape. Somehow, he recruited accomplices outside the prison to hijack a helicopter and its pilot, land in the prison yard and fly Remling away to freedom. The chopper then flew 13 miles north to the town of Leslie, Michigan and Remling fled on foot. He was arrested without incident the next day in a bar in Leslie.

This time Remling was sent to the Federal prison at Marion, Illinois to serve a 20-year sentence for air piracy. Unable to concoct another scheme to escape, he was released on September 13, 1993 and died at Bakersfield, California on July 2, 1999.

A close up photo of a man's face as he looks sideways with a slight smile.
Dale Otto Remling. [Jackson Citizen Patriot]

States of Incarceration

Learn more about the history of incarceration in the traveling exhibit, States of Incarceration

Many fascinating stories like this one were featured in our special exhibit, States of Incarceration, from September 2018 - May 2019. This national traveling exhibit explores the history and impact of mass incarceration nationwide. During its run at the Michigan History Museum, it included stories throughout to reflect specifically on Michigan’s place in the past and future of mass incarceration.

Purple block with four white bars. Text overlaid on white bars reads "States of Incarceration"

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