Sex criminal attempts jailbreak

December 12, 2006

One of this area's most notorious criminals ever is back in the news.

Richard Starrett and another inmate tried to escape Sunday from the maximum security prison in Bishopville, South Carolina. They were caught between the security fences.

Starrett is a former Savannah River Site worker who lived in Columbia County. He led a double life, kidnapping teenage girls, taking them to his home, and attacking them.

It was one of the first cases in for the newly elected district attorney, Danny Craig.

"In the Jean McRae case, an ad was placed in a bulletin. He found her alone in Irmo, held her at his home in Columbia County, imprisoned her for several days--close to a week," recalled Craig.

We asked Craig what his reaction was when he heard Starrett was one fence away from escaping.

"Well, I have a lot of faith in the South Carolina prison system," Craig said. "To say he was one fence away...he was not on the verge of freedom at all. He will not successfully escape confinement."

Jean McRae was only 16 when she was killed.

The case went on to be the subject of a novel called A Stranger in the Family. It was written by two authors in Aiken: Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.

You can still find it in places like

Starrett is serving four life sentences for kidnapping sex offenses. He was also indicted for murder in Columbia County, but never tried. He's been in the prison system for nearly 17 years.