Homeless, He Spots Jail Escapees, Gets $100k Reward


Homeless people, despite having not a lot they need to do, often follow fairly strict routines. Some of them say it keeps them sane. Sometimes a routine can do a lot more than that.

Matthew Hay-Chapman, who lived for a while in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, was following his routine one day in late January – a stop at the restroom at a Whole Foods store (“They have good restrooms,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle a few days later), then a stroll to a nearby McDonald’s.

Before going in for his coffee, he picked up a copy of the Chronicle from a vending machine, and started reading the news. An article about a jailbreak in Santa Ana, a town more than 300 miles south, near Los Angeles, caught his eye. Then he caught sight of a white van similar to one he’d once lived in. He noticed the windows were thick with condensation, suggesting to him, from his experience working in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) field, that someone was living in this van.

Soon, someone emerged from the van, and Hay-Chapman recognized a face he’d just seen in The Chronicle. It was one of the escapees.

It was his civic duty, he thought, to notify the police.

He did.

They caught two of the three men who’d escaped from the Orange County jail.

A reward had been offered by that county, and county officials were only too pleased to give him the lion’s share of it: $100,000. The balance of the $200,000  reward was split among several others who, in one way or another, contributed to authorities being able to locate and recapture the escapees.

Hay-Chapman, who says he reads The Chronicle every day (“It’s my favorite paper,” he told a reporter), intends to use the money to get his life back in order and to help his daughter, who is handicapped, and his son, who is battling substance abuse, the paper reported on March 16, a few days before Matthew is due to get his check.

Chances are that sweet taste in his mouth isn’t from sugar in his coffee!


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