Wanted: Rapist Leslie Dawson escaped from prison in 1986

Crime

Leslie Dawson still being sought by FBI, US Marshals

TILLAMOOK, Ore. (KOIN) — Convicted child rapist Leslie Charles Dawson was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was first sent to the Oregon State Penitentiary, where he proved himself to be a model prisoner. After 6 months, he was transferred to the South Fork Forest Camp, a minimum security facility designed to teach prisoners life and work skills.

At 4 a.m. on October 7, 1986, guards checked all the cabins, which housed up to 10 people, depending on the size. Dawson was counted. When they checked 2 hours later, he was gone.

Leslie Charles Dawson hasn’t been seen since. The fugitive made it to the FBI’s Most Wanted List and remains a target of the FBI, US Marshals and the Oregon Department of Corrections.

For 33 years, Dawson’s victim has lived not knowing where her abuser might be or when he might turn up.

A 1980s photo and fingerprints of escaped rapist Leslie Charles Dawson (Oregon Department of Corrections)

Incarceration

Leslie Dawson was married 5 times.

In January 1986, Dawson was sentenced to 10 years for sexually abusing a family member in Linn County. “He abused her from the age of 10 to 13 on an almost daily basis,” said Christina Towers, an inspector with ODOC’s Office of Inspector General. “He also gave her numerous different kinds of drugs.”

A 1990s photo of escaped rapist Leslie Charles Dawson and a 2001 flyer about him from the Oregon Department of Corrections

He was confined to the Oregon State Penitentiary. But in his brief time there, “he worked in a kitchen, he kept his nose clean,” Towers said.

Six months later, he was transferred to the South Fork Forest Camp. That facility today no longer allows prisoners convicted of sex crimes. But at that time, Dawson qualified.

“He met minimum qualification and so we sent him out to the South Fork Forest Camp in Tillamook,” Towers told KOIN 6 News. “He was here for a few months before he decided to leave.”

Sometime in that 2-hour window between security checks, Dawson disappeared into the forest.

A Google view of the area surrounding the South Fork Forest Camp minimum security facility in Tillamook, November 16, 2019

“We don’t have any indication that anyone helped him,” she said. “He does have a strong military background. He also has a bit of an obsession with the military and survival skills. He has a great knowledge of weaponry and how to protect himself. So he has from the beginning been somewhat of a threat. So that’s why we have US Marshals and the FBI involved.”

Since the escape

In the 33 years since he vanished, there’s been almost no trace of Dawson. Almost.

“In 1992 we believe he wrote letters to his parents that told about where he was, what he was doing. Changed his hair color, some plastic surgery was mentioned in those letters. Those letters were turned over by a sister in 1999, but no real facts to follow up to say that’s what actually happened.”

Photos of escaped rapist Leslie Charles Dawson in the 1980s and 1990s. (Oregon Department of Corrections)

Those letters included photos, and “he told his parents that he was in the military in the Philippines, but we were never able to confirm that he actually was.”

Age progression photos

Towers said Dawson “absolutey could have lived under a fake name with a whole new identity, with a whole new family.”

He was born March 21, 1946. So if he is still alive, he’d be 73.

The Oregon Department of Corrections provided some age progression photos that show “a couple different variances of what he could look like today.”

A photo (left) and two age progression sketches of what escaped rapist Leslie Charles Dawson might look like. (Oregon Department of Corrections)

Dawson has connections to Illinois, California and Louisiana, but authorities said he could be anywhere.

“We believe he is still out there but we don’t have any specific ideas of where he might be,” she said.

Investigators want to find him and put him back behind bars, in no small part because of how his victim has been left wondering.

“There’s no conclusion for her. There’s no end for her until he’s apprehended and in custody and does the time he was sentenced to.”

Towers hopes people take a close look at these photos and think about someone who has “an obsession with the military in the US and in the Philippines, his obsession with weapons and survival gear.”

If you have a tip on this case you’re asked to call the Oregon Department of Corrections Inspector General’s Hotline at 877.678.4222.

An age progression sketch of what escaped rapist Leslie Charles Dawson might look like, 2017. (Oregon Department of Corrections)

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