Gold Bar: A Magnet, Too, For Hardcore Crooks On The Lam

We couldn’t help but chuckle today upon learning that one of the nation’s “Most Wanted” criminals, who busted out of a Missouri prison posing as a guard nearly 30 years ago, settled down and became a respected business owner in Gold Bar. Well, of course he did. Hell, Dennis “Slick” Lilly even played Santa Claus when the kids came into his shop.

Perhaps this robber, burglar and car thief extraordinaire knew that this restless mountain haunt has long been a place where the squirrels hide their nuts. Why not a incorrigible crook?

What better hideout, Lilly must have reckoned, than this brawling Skykomish Valley backwater of 2,071 quarrelsome souls scattered along a mile-long stretch of Highway 2.

As we wrote earlier last year in a feature, “Mountain Meltdown”:

“Spreading mean-spirited gossip is a blood sport here, but Gold Bar’s frictions go well beyond that. Residents and elected officials openly slander one another. The former mayor, Crystal Hill, has been called an ‘adulteress.’ The town’s feisty and much-feared watchdog, Anne Block, has in her cantankerous Gold Bar Reporter blog compared this Cascade foothills community to ‘a religious fundamentalist town in Iran’ and has referred to local officials as ‘evil people,’ ‘promiscuous,’ and ‘wife-beaters.’”

The Sky Valley Chronicle summed up well the town’s dyspeptic sensibilities in a 2012 article, “Goin’ Down in Gold Bar.”

“For several years,” the paper stated, “here’s been a strange, dark, cancerous mass of venomous antimatter bubbling up in the weird undertow of Gold Bar’s civic life. There are those in Gold Bar—seemingly perpetually angry people who drool snake venom on cue who aren’t satisfied unless they’re launching lawsuits or banging out so many public-records requests that it costs Gold Bar tens of thousands of dollars it does not have—that seem to just love that foaming-at-the-mouth, Mel Gibson-as-Antichrist approach to civic life and politics.”

Which brings us back to “Slick” Lilly, featured today in a fascinating story in the Everett Herald .

Lilly, the paper reports, lived in Gold Bar, at least since 1993, under the alias Dave Murray. His wife, Mary Murray, the former Mary or Amanda Lilly, told police that her husband died from pancreatic cancer in 2012 and that she buried his ashes in the backyard of their home at the end of a dead end street.

Dave Murray ran The Mail Station on the eastern outskirts of Monroe, and with his impressive white beard, posed as Santa for kids who ventured into the family business.

“Heck, his photo is probably in hundreds of homes,” Mitch Ruth of Ruth Realty, which is next door and leases out The Mail Station building, told the Herald.

“They were always honest and professional working with us. He never presented himself as anything other than a calm, mild-mannered business owner. Neither did she. I have nothing but kind words and memories of both.”

So confident was Lilly, twice featured on “America’s Most Wanted,” in his new persona that he’d call police when he had concerns about crime. In 2010, he reported to the Monroe Police Department that someone sent a child pornography catalog to his business from the Virgin Islands.

Reports the Herald:

“Internet crime sleuths report that he also was a prolific escape artist. A web site for fans of “America’s Most Wanted,” claims that Lilly first escaped prison in 1975 by tunneling out of his cell. He was caught about two weeks later.

“He reportedly escaped at least two more times in Kansas. Once he stole a prison truck and another time he and some other inmates allegedly overpowered guards in a control tower and scaled the prison walls. He was cornered several hours later and took a shot at a police officer. Lilly was moved to a maximum-security prison in Missouri.

“He had been on the lam since Dec. 13, 1986. That’s when he stole a prison guard’s uniform and walked out of the Missouri State Penitentiary. Presumably, he met up with Mary Lilly, whom he had married two years earlier. They were pen pals who wed while he was behind bars.”

The FBI, who’ve been hunting for Lilly for years, caught a break in October when Amanda Murray filed an application with an online stock trading firm. But the application was rejected because her birth date and Social Security number didn’t match the name Amanda Murray – all of which led to her connection with Dennis Lilly.

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