Film crew interviews Stephenville man who helped orchestrate federal prison break in Mexico.

Updated: Sep 3


Bethel Baker during the recent filming of a documentary at the Stephenville Historical House Museum.

By SARA VANDEN BERGE


Stephenville’s Bethel Baker was the star of the show recently when a film crew from Mexico arrived to film part of a documentary at the Stephenville Historical House Museum.


I’d never heard the story of Mr. Baker’s participation in helping orchestrate a breakout from a federal prison in Mexico in the 1960s, but I was intrigued.

I spoke at length to his daughter Debra Foster who is well-versed in the interesting tale that is much larger than I plan to detail, but it’s a fascinating story that goes something like this:


In the 1960s, Bethel Baker worked as a firefighter in Fort Worth alongside a man named Carroll Simmons, and the two became good friends.

Carroll Simmons and Bethel Baker

Carroll’s brother, Dykes Askew Simmons Jr. (DA), was a crane operator in Fort Worth with a rap sheet for petty crime.


On Monday, Oct. 12, 1959, DA drove to Mexico for a short vacay, but his plans for a little rest and relaxation were thwarted when three young Mexican siblings were murdered on the side of the road, not far from where DA had crossed the border.


One of the siblings – a sister - lived long enough to tell Mexican authorities that after the family’s car broke down, a North American man stopped to help, then attacked and killed two members of her family.

The sister died 17 days later, but not before identifying DA as the assailant.


After what many believe was a botched investigation, DA was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death by firing squad, becoming the first American ever to be condemned in Mexico.

For the next 10 years, DA sat in a Mexican federal prison while his family worked feverishly for his release


After exhausting all legal avenues, Carroll devised a plan.


He would bring his brother home by breaking him out of prison – and that’s where Bethel Baker comes in.


THE DARING ESCAPE


In 1968, the Simmons family donated money to have a small cinder block building constructed on the prison grounds for DA to live.


That same year, Carroll traveled to Mexico to visit his brother, and after his return, told Bethel that he was going back to Mexico to smuggle DA out of prison.


Bethel Baker's granddaughter painted this to match the real escape car, which was Beachwood Brown.

Carroll then purchased a 1960 Ford Galaxy Starliner with a big sloping back window from a wrecking yard for $450.


Bethel helped Carroll modify a space behind the backseat of the car that was big enough to hide a person.


“Basically, they installed a false back seat,” Debra told Beneath the Surface News.

In April 1969, Carroll arrived at the prison and backed the car into the carport.


He loaded up a few of DA’s belongings, hid his brother inside the secret compartment and cruised through the prison’s two checkpoints and straight into freedom.


After stopping for gas, Carroll and DA drove to San Antonio, Texas where a wealthy family friend arranged for a safe house.

The Mexican authorities never demanded extradition after DA’s daring escape and he remained free.


In a really cool side note, DA left behind a note for the prison’s warden, telling him that he hopes the two meet again someday under better circumstances.


Cool story, huh?


I’ll let you know more about the documentary and when it will be released when I find out the details.