Wife of ‘Prison Houdini’ hopes he’ll get out for good

DeFriest is serving a life sentence after escaping jail 7 times

Bonnie and Mark DeFriest have been married for 23 years. Mark has been behind bars the entire time. (Courtesy of Bonnie DeFriest)


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It was 23 years ago that Bonnie DeFriest decided to marry a man who is 31 years younger than her and she met through a prison penpal program.

Bonnie DeFriest married Mark DeFriest 23 years ago after meeting through a prison penpal program. (KOIN)
Bonnie DeFriest married Mark DeFriest 23 years ago after meeting through a prison penpal program. (KOIN)

Bonnie’s husband, Mark DeFriest first went to prison in Florida after taking his father’s tools before he was allowed to. His sentence turned into life after he escaped 7 times.

Bonnie has been married before and has children and grandchildren, but says Mark is the love of her life. They’ve spent their entire of their marriage apart.

“I am committed to him, I have deep sympathy for him, understanding of him,” Bonnie told KOIN 6 News. “I am committed.”

DeFriest’s many escape attempts have earned the 56-year-old the nickname “Prison Houdini.

“He has some very strong energy. A powerful energy. A brilliant mind,” Bonnie said.

That brilliant mind is why he’s had difficultly staying out of trouble. In 1980, DeFriest was first sentenced to 4 years for stealing his late father’s tools, which were left to him in his father’s will.

Mark DeFriest's original booking photo. (WCTV via CBS News)
Mark DeFriest’s original booking photo. (WCTV via CBS News)

DeFriest tried escaping 13 times, each attempt adding years to his sentence.

“Mark has some kind of brain damage,” Bonnie said. “I think it’s just a bipolar situation.”

Bonnie and Mark DeFriest have been married for 23 years. Mark has been behind bars the entire time. (Courtesy of Bonnie DeFriest)
Bonnie and Mark DeFriest have been married for 23 years. Mark has been behind bars the entire time. (Courtesy of Bonnie DeFriest)

In the documentary film “The Mind of Mark DeFriest,” filmmaker Gabriel London also suggests DeFriest is misunderstood and suffers from mental illness.

Now she says because of his lawyer’s work and campaign efforts from Gabriel London, DeFriest could soon be out of jail. Bonnie hopes he will eventually be able to come live with her in Philomath.

“He’s supposed to come home next year. He’ll see that I really am an old person now,” Bonnie said. “That may change his romantic feelings. I would think it would. He’s a normal man.”

When he gets out, Bonnie said he’d have to spend a year in a halfway house before he can move in with her in Philomath.

Bonnie and Mark DeFriest have been married for 23 years. Mark has been behind bars the entire time. (Courtesy of Bonnie DeFriest)