Fugitive says he impersonated a state trooper

Ralph "Bucky" Phillips
A New York State trooper lead Ralph "Bucky" Phillips into the Chemung County Courthouse in Elmira, N.Y., on Sept. 9, 2006.Don Heupel / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man who escaped from jail and eluded authorities for more than five months said he disguised himself as a state trooper and spoke with a real trooper during his time on the run, a newspaper reported.

Ralph “Bucky” Phillips, who is serving 40 years to life in prison for killing a state trooper and wounding two others, told The New York Times in a story published Saturday that his time as a fugitive wasn’t bad.

“I enjoyed those few months more than I’ve enjoyed any other time in my life,” said Phillips, who is serving his sentence at the Clinton County Correction Facility.

After escaping from the Erie County Correctional Facility April 2, the former fugitive led police on a massive manhunt before being captured in a field just across the Pennsylvania line on Sept. 8.

Now Phillips is telling how he spent his time on the lam.

No verification
Many of Phillips’ claims could not be verified — he was alone during most of his time on the run and a state police spokesman said the department would not discuss or substantiate any of his claims.

Phillips said he obtained a state trooper uniform from an acquaintance and on one occasion spoke to a real trooper while wearing for an hour. Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley said he was not aware of a trooper describing such a conversation.

Daniel De Federicis, president of the troopers’ union, said he doubted Phillips’ claim because the Phillips was unshaven and had longer hair than a trooper would when he was caught. Phillips’ former defense lawyer, Richard Rich Jr., said his client had never told him about wearing the uniform or speaking with troopers.

Phillips said he stole cars and entered unlocked homes and campers, usually moving around after dark and surviving on a diet of rabbits and fish.

He did not name friends or family who helped him during his time on the run. In exchange his guilty pleas, prosecutors dropped charges against Phillips’ daughter, Patrina Wright, and her mother, Kasey Crowe. Wright was charged with child endangerment for allowing Phillips to visit her children while he was on the run, and Crowe was charged with hindering prosecution.

Foley said Phillips’ description of living in the woods, stealing and hiding with friends, could be corroborated by statements from witnesses and physical evidence.

Accidental escape?
Phillips also said he only made the escape from prison because he thought his parole for a drug conviction would be revoked. When he later learned that he could have been released much sooner than he thought, he said he would not have gone through with the escape.

On the run near Elmira in central New York, he was stopped in a stolen car early on the morning of June 10 and opened fire on Trooper Sean Brown, who was hit once and recovered from the wound.

Phillips ambushed Troopers Joseph Longobardo and Donald Baker Jr. Aug. 31 with a high-powered rifle, shooting each of them once. Longobardo had his leg amputated and died three days later. Baker was shot through the torso and was hospitalized for almost three months.