Toby Dorr visits Fraud Busting. You’ll be sucked into her amazing story as she takes us from leading her normal, midwestern life to busting her boyfriend out of prison. Listen to find out exactly what happened, what she’s doing now and how you can realize the signs of vulnerability to fraud and social engineering in yourself.
Traci Brown: Toby, thank you so much for coming on Fraud Busting!
Toby Dorr: You’re welcome.
Traci Brown: I read your story. I think it was on. . . it might have been on Apple News or something like that.
Toby Dorr: It was The Atlantic that did an article on me in October, and it was actually named on the cover of the October issue of The Atlantic.
Traci Brown: I was just fascinated by you. I just thought, you know what, I think you have some insight that my listeners are really going to gravitate to. I don’t want to wreck the story by trying to prep people about what’s going on because I was shocked the whole way as I read it. If you want to just jump in and let us know what happened, and I’m sure I’m going to have a million questions.
Toby Dorr: Okay, that sounds good. I was the typical corporate life. I had a six-figure career and I worked 50 to 60 hours a week, and I had kids at home. But I got laid off in 2001 when the tech boom busted, and I lost my job. So I decided I couldn’t just sit around the house, so I took a job at my local veterinary clinic because I’m an animal lover. Then in 2004 I was diagnosed with cancer and that was just kind of a wakeup call to hear your name after the word cancer.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Toby Dorr: Even though my cancer was pretty easily treated, I had thyroid cancer, and they removed my thyroid, but it makes you stop and think. I realized that I really hadn’t done anything significant in my life. I went on vacations, and I went to baseball games that my kids were playing, and I enjoyed life, but who would care if I was gone? I hadn’t made a difference. I decided I needed to do something that would make a difference. I decided to start a dog rescue group. Within just a few weeks, or actually days of my starting my dog rescue group, I was approached by someone from the men’s prison that was up the road about eight miles to see if I was interested in starting a prison dog program. Well, the funny thing is the whole time I was recuperating from my surgery I was watching Cell Dogs on Animal Planet. I kept saying to my husband, I want to do a prison dog program, and he said, “That’s just something on TV. They don’t really have those.” Then here this prison comes to me and asks me if I wanted to start a prison dog program. I was thrilled to death. They asked me on a Monday. On Wednesday I gave a two-hour presentation to the warden and his staff about what my prison dog program would look like, although I had no idea how I was going to build one, and they approved it. On Friday, I took seven dogs into the prison.
Traci Brown: Oh my gosh.
Toby Dorr: It was the beginning of Safe Harbor.
Traci Brown: How many dogs did you have at this point?
Toby Dorr: When I started the prison dog program, I only had the seven dogs that were rescue dogs that I was trying to find homes for. I took them into the prison and immediately the warden contacted me and said, “This is just changing our prison.” Because you know as humans, we’re social animals. We want to have that connection with somebody. These men had gone 5, 10, 20, 30 years without ever hugging anyone. It just does something to us. But by having these dogs inside the prison, these inmates could hug the dogs, even if they weren’t in the dog program because I insisted that the dogs live with the inmates in their cells and walk with them out in the yard when they were out on regular outdoor activities, so anyone in the prison could be influenced by the dog’s presence even if they weren’t a dog handler. I just kept being asked to bring more and more dogs. I worked up to having 100 dog handlers inside the prison and a little over 100 dogs in the prison at any given time.
Traci Brown: Now, did you have to pay for the food for all the dogs? How did . . . ?
Toby Dorr: Yea, I did, but the way it worked was I would take a dog into the prison and the inmates would . . . I would have to do their vet care before they went, their vaccinations and have them spade or neutered, and then inside the prison the inmates would train them. I wanted them to be housebroken. I wanted them to walk well on a leash. I wanted them to be able to sit and lie down, just be a really good pet for a family. Then once the dogs were finished with their training, I would take them out to adoption events and adopt the dogs out. I charged a fee for the dog adoptions. It was $150 a dog. That helped me pay for their vet care and the food that they needed.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. I think I told you, I was also really attracted to your story because me and my dog are a therapy dog team.
Toby Dorr: Yes.
Traci Brown: We were busier before the virus, but I get how you can kind of get to where you want to do a lot of dog stuff.
Toby Dorr: Yes. You know, every single dog I took into the program were dogs that were going to be put to sleep. I was their last chance, and I took dogs from 1,000 miles away. Rescue groups would drive them to me because they were so desperate to save a particular dog. There was no end to the dogs, so I had 100 dogs in the prison. I had another 15 to 30 dogs either at my house or in other people’s homes waiting for a spot to open in the prison. In 18 months, I had rescued 1,000 dogs.
Traci Brown: Oh, my goodness. Wow. That’s some significance. You wanted significance.
Toby Dorr: Yes.
Traci Brown: Okay. What happened next?
Toby Dorr: I fell in love with one of my dog handlers.
Traci Brown: Wait, wait, wait, back up, back up, back up. Okay. Let’s talk about that a little bit because the article that I read made your situation at home sound like desperate. Your husband wasn’t into you anymore. Ya’ll had been married forever. There was a series of things that led up to this moment of falling in love with this fellow. You want to talk about that?
Toby Dorr: Yes, that’s right. I had been married for 28 years. I let myself believe, I forced myself to believe that I had a perfect life. I didn’t acknowledge that there was anything wrong in my life. Then my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer in July, and I was just devastated. He was such a central figure to our family that I didn’t think I could face life without him. My dad had to have several emergency surgeries, and we spent a lot of time at the hospital. My husband never went with me because he always said, “There’s no sense in both of us missing sleep. It won’t matter if I’m there or not.” I felt unsupported. Then one day I was in the prison and I had just come from the hospital. I’d been up all night. My dad had had an emergency surgery. I left the hospital at 5:30 in the morning. I went to get some breakfast and then I went straight to the prison. One of my dog handlers said to me, “Toby, what is going on with you? You are off today. Something big is happening in your life. What’s going on?” I told him about my dad being at the hospital the night before. He said, “That’s really tough. Thank goodness your husband was there to drive you home because that’s pretty tough to go through.” I said, “He wasn’t there. What was the sense of both of us missing sleep?” The dog handler said to me, “That is the stupidest thing I ever heard of. Why would you be married to someone like that?” I didn’t have an answer. For the first time I stopped and thought. You know once you open that door, and that thought is in your head, and I spent the next 24 hours just thinking, why am I married to him? What answer can I give? Why can’t I have an answer. I should have an answer for that. I didn’t. It was really eye opening. It ended up that dog handler happened to be the one I ended up falling in love with. We just talked more and more about my dad and about what I was going through, and I just felt so supported and so important to someone, which I realized, that is what I had been craving for years and years. I just never let myself face that I had a need.
Traci Brown: He comes in. He recognizes this. What happens next?
Toby Dorr: Then, we just started talking more. But maybe two or three weeks after that, I was accosted in the yard by one of my dog handlers. He was so angry at me and screaming and yelling at me. He had his fists up. I just knew he was going to hit me. I looked all around the prison yard and there were no officers there. I didn’t know how to get out of the situation. Then I looked up and I saw John Maynard strolling across the yard. I thought, he’s going to save me.
Traci Brown: This was the guy.
Toby Dorr: This was the guy. He walked up and he just diffused the whole situation. He just said, you know, to the guy that was accosting me, he said, “Just go on back to your room.” Then he said, “Come on Toby, I am going to walk you to the gate so you can get out of here.” Once I got outside the prison, I just fell apart because I was under so much stress. I was so busy with the dog program and it was so overwhelming. Then my dad being sick and then this thing going through my head that there is a problem in my marriage that I had never let myself acknowledge before. I called the warden’s office at the prison and said, “I’m not going back in. I’ll still run the prison dog program, but somebody else is going to have to do the work inside. I’m not going back in there.” The warden’s office called me back the next day and said, “I’ve got it all worked out. From now on when you go into the prison, you call and page John Maynard and I freed it up so that he can leave his job to escort you around the prison because we all know that nobody will miss with John Maynard.”
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. Okay, okay.
Toby Dorr: That just kind of set up a situation where I was spending five hours with John Maynard, this person who I had already made this connection with. Things just grew. It all happened really fast thought too. That was October 25th or so when I said I wasn’t going back in the prison, and the escape was February 12th. By December, I realized I’d fallen in love with him. He asked me, “If I were not in prison, would you be with me?” I said, “I might.” Because I had come to the realization in my head that I needed to leave my marriage. Maybe if he wasn’t in prison, I would be with him.
Traci Brown: Was there an age difference at this point?
Toby Dorr: Yea. There was an age difference, 21 years. He was younger than me.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Toby Dorr: He was a lot younger than me. When he was in prison, he never seemed like he was that much younger because I think prison kind of grows you up pretty fast. He didn’t seem like he was 21 years younger than em.
Traci Brown: Okay, got it. What happened next?
Toby Dorr: Then when I told him I might be with him if he wasn’t in prison, I was thinking you know, if he were released from prison for some reason. But in his mind that started him thinking about how he could get out of prison. He started thinking of ways to escape. After a couple of weeks, he said, “You know, I think I’m going to get out of here. I think I’m going to get out. I’m going to do it this way.” And I would say, “That’s a dumb way. That’s not going to work for this, this, or this reason.” Then a couple days later he would say, “I thought of a different way. I think I’m going to do this.” I was like, “That’s not going to work either.” To me, it was kind of a game, like a fantasy game. A prison escape? Nobody escapes from prison. I kept shooting down his ideas that weren’t good and building up the ideas that we thought could work until all of a sudden, we had a plan. Up until the day it really happened, I still wasn’t positive it was going to happen. I mean, it was kind of a crazy plan, but it all worked out. He hid in a dog crate. It just so happened that one of the team leaders at the prison, I had a big wire dog crate in the prison because I’d had a dog who had puppies and we needed a place to keep the puppies corralled. He came to me and John Maynard happened to be standing there, and he said, “I need you to get this wire dog crate out of the prison because it’s really a security risk. Somebody could take the wire apart and make shanks out of it, so I really need to get that crate out of here.” I said, “Okay, I can do that.” Then John said, “How about if I just bring that crate down to her van when she comes in to a dog adoption, and we can load it in the van, and then she does not have to carry this big crate out of the prison.” He said, “That would be a good idea. I’ll just let the officers at the guard check know that one of these adoption days you’re going to be expecting the crate to be loaded in the van.”
Traci Brown: Because they had to keep track of everything that goes in and out.
Toby Dorr: Yes. Yes. Then, John was working on trying to figure out how he could hide in the crate because it’s a wire crate. You can see in it. He couldn’t just get in there. They had these pack out boxes that inmates could get a pack out box if they were moving to another cell or moving to another prison and they could fit all their belongings in this pack out box. He practiced and struggled and lost weight and contorted himself until he finally figured out how he could fit in this box. The box was inside of a wire dog crate and John Maynard was in the box.
Traci Brown: Oh, my goodness. You knew this. How did someone not see him get into van? I have a little gap in what really happened.
Toby Dorr: I wasn’t there when he got into the box or into the crate, so I can’t answer that. I had a metal farm wagon that I used to move 50-pound sacks of dog food around inside the prison. The crate was on the farm wagon and a couple of inmates rolled the wagon down to my van, and then just slid the crate into the side of the van.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. Do you think they knew what was going on?
Toby Dorr: I don’t know if they knew or not. John and I never talked about that. I doubt that all of them knew. But it’s possible that nobody knew. It’s possible that John put himself in that crate because he had told his buddies there at the prison that he was supposed to bring this crate down and load it in my van, but he got called into work. So, if he had everything set up on the wagon, could they just bring the wagon down and load the crate in the van for him. So, they said sure.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. Okay, okay. He had some engineering that went into that.
Toby Dorr: Yes, he did.
Traci Brown: So, you drive the van out of the prison. What happens next?
Toby Dorr: We stop at my house so that I can take the dogs that are in the van that I was going to take to adoption that day and put them in my barn into dog pens down in my barn.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Toby Dorr: Then we went to a storage unit. I had bought a truck that I paid cash for. It was parked in the storage unit with some supplies in it. We pulled the truck out of the storage unit and back the prison dog van into the storage unit, and we closed the door and left.
Traci Brown: Okay. Oh my gosh. What were you feeling at this point? Was he in the back of the van? Was he driving or in the passenger seat?
Toby Dorr: He drove when we got the truck out of the storage unit, but I drove the van. Even when it was happening, I kept thinking, oh, he’s probably not in that crate. It’s really a dumb idea. He’s probably not in that crate. I’ll just go to the dog adoption like normal. When I started to pull the van out of the prison, I said, “John, are you in there?” And he didn’t answer. I thought, oh, thank goodness. This whole thing was such a crazy idea, but I’m just going to go to a dog adoption like normal. Then as I pulled off the prison ground and onto a city street, then I heard him laughing. I pulled the car over and I just was frozen, and I thought, oh my gosh, what have we done? I can’t undo this now. I’m on a road of no return. John popped out of the box and said, “Drive! Drive!”
Traci Brown: Oh, my goodness.
Toby Dorr: There was so much adrenaline. It was such a crazy high because, wow, we had done this thing and it worked. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Then, as time went on, it was like, oh, gosh, what have I done? I’m kind of stuck now. How am I going to get out of this? It was really an emotional time.
Traci Brown: Wow, okay. You get the new truck. He’s driving the new truck now?
Toby Dorr: Yea. It’s not new. It’s like 10 or 12 years old, but yea, he’s driving it.
Traci Brown: Okay. Where did ya’ll go? How did all that . . . ? What was your interaction like? Tell me the whole thing.
Toby Dorr: John just talked a million miles a minute. He had always said, “Oh gosh, red licorice. I just love red licorice. They didn’t have any red licorice in here. Do you know how long it’s been since I had red licorice?” And I just loved those little chocolate donuts in the package so I bought those things that I heard him talk about. He was just eating and driving and laughing and just celebrating because he’s like, wow, this is my new life. I’m going to be a good person, and I’m going to make something happen. He just was ecstatic. He thought this was going to be the start of a new life for him. It was kind of surreal because now, I kind of saw the younger side of John that I didn’t see when he was in the prison. He just was kind of immature about some of the things that he was thinking. But it was still exciting, and we had rented a cabin in Tennessee. We were going to stay there for a month, and so we headed to Tennessee.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay. Then how does the month transpire? Is anyone missing you?
Toby Dorr: Yea.
Traci Brown: How did all that come into play?
Toby Dorr: At the prison, I picked John up at 10:30. That’s what time I went to pick up the dogs because it was right after a count. In prison every so often you have a count, and the officers count all the inmates and make sure everybody is accounted for. It was Sunday so we knew that the next count wasn’t going to be until 3:00 or 3:30 so we had five hours to be pretty far gone. What happens is when they do a count, each officer is responsible for a housing unit. Then there are officers that are at each place of employment and there are officers at the visiting center. Each one of those officers just count inmates. They don’t really count names. They just count inmates. Then they put their counts together and they’re like, oh, we’re one short. They call out and then go, okay, let’s do a recount, and so they count again. Then they come back and they’re one short. Then they’re like, okay, now we need to a standing count. A standing count is everybody has to leave wherever they are in the prison and return to their housing unit and you have to stand with your badge so they can write down names of who they are counting. When they get through all that, then they realize that John Maynard is missing. They knew that John Maynard was one of my dog handlers, and they knew that I’d been in there to pick up dogs for an adoption, so they called Pet Smart where I was supposed to go for the adoption. Pet Smart said, “No, she didn’t come in here today.” Then, they started thinking that John Maynard had somehow snuck into the van and kidnapped me. They go to my house and they see the dogs that I had picked up from the prison, and they knew they were there. I think by the next day they made the connection that I had helped with his escape.
Traci Brown: Do you think you still would have had the option to blame it on him and say you were kidnapped, or did that ever cross your mind?
Toby Dorr: Well, John always said that’s what he was going to say, and he did say that after we got arrested. I never did say that because for me it was important to . . . I felt like if I let myself be a victim, then I would be a victim for the rest of my life, and I am not a victim. I made choices. I made decisions. I could have said no. In order for me to move forward and heal and grow, I felt like it was really important that I take responsibility and that I don’t be a victim.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. How did this month go?
Toby Dorr: Well, it was really two weeks. We were caught after two weeks.
Traci Brown: Oh, okay.
Toby Dorr: There were really good highs and there were some lows during that two weeks. I now know because we did get caught in a high-speed car chase on a Tennessee interstate late at night and we crashed head on into a tree at 100 miles an hour.
Traci Brown: I want to talk about that a little bit, but okay. What do you know now? Then, let’s back up into that high-speed chase.
Toby Dorr: Okay. We went to Knoxville. Our first plan was we were just going to hide out at this cabin and not go anywhere and wait a month and let things die down. John, when he went to prison, they didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have smart phones, and they didn’t have GPS. They didn’t have all the police departments connected by computer systems like they do now. He thought that there would be no way they could figure out what was going on. There would be no way to alert other people in other states. There wouldn’t know who to alert. That’s really not how it works. He thought if we just laid low for a month and then moved on somewhere else that nobody would ever find us unless we did something wrong to get questioned. But I bought that truck, and I knew we needed to get it licensed because if we didn’t have a license on it then we would get pulled over. We had a 30-day tag on it, so in order to get it licensed we needed the title. I gave them the address of the cabin to send the title to. I used a fake name. I didn’t think they’d make the connection, but they did. So, they tracked us down to the cabin on the truck registration.
Traci Brown: Then you get out to go somewhere. Where were you going?
Toby Dorr: We went to Knoxville, Tennessee to go to the aquarium and the IMAX theatre, and then we stopped at a shopping center on the way out of town and went into a bookstore. When we came out of the bookstore, this was such a weird coincidence, the marshals that were in charge of finding us were sitting in their car in that parking lot and we walked right in front of them when we left the bookstore.
Traci Brown: Oh, really. They had tailed you.
Toby Dorr: They didn’t know we were in the bookstore. They were surprised to see us, but they knew we were in Tennessee because they had been to the cabin earlier that day and we weren’t here. They knew we were in the general area. When they saw us, then they followed us, and we got into a pickup truck that was what they were looking for. They radioed ahead and set up this trap on the interstate. As we’re driving down the interstate, they had closed the entrance ramps onto the interstate so nobody could get on. We came up over this hill and in front of us was just a sea of police cars. I mean, there had to have been 50 or 60 police cars, all different colors, all different departments. They just filled the highway. They were just waiting for us. Then they had a helicopter on us with this bright light shining. There was no way we were going to get away. John asked me, “What do you want to do?” I said, “Well, if they ask you to pull over, I think you should pull over because that’s the law.”
Traci Brown: Yea.
Toby Dorr: He said, “Okay, I’ll pull over.” Then, just then, a police car sped up from around behind us and pulled in front of us real quick and slammed on their brakes. It made John made. He said, “Those MFer’s are trying to kill us”!” I’m not going to stop.” So, he floored it and we took off. He drove on the shoulder. He drove across the median and went into the other direction. This was an interstate that was in a rural area. There was a huge swath of trees on a wide median, maybe a quarter of a mile wide. You couldn’t see the other lanes from the lane you were in. We drove through those trees and came out on the other side. Then he lost control of the truck, and we slammed into a tree at 100 miles an hour.
Traci Brown: Oh man! You are lucky you weren’t . . . were they shooting at you or just chasing you?
Toby Dorr: No. They didn’t shoot. They didn’t shoot, but I think it wouldn’t have taken much for them to want to shoot. It was a really tense, crazy situation.
Traci Brown: Because I’ve seen that video of that chase. It’s on your site. People can see it. It is no joke.
Toby Dorr: That’s right. It was pretty crazy.
Traci Brown: Wow. What were you thinking through all this? Were you thinking, huh, I wonder if anybody misses me?
Toby Dorr: I truly believed that nobody would even know I was gone because I felt like I was so invisible to everyone in my world.
Traci Brown: Oh, my goodness. Wow. Okay. The van crashes. What happens then?
Toby Dorr: They pull me out of the van. I had the wind knocked out of me, but I’m not hurt. I’d been praying, please let me die in this crash. I don’t want to have to face this. Whatever is coming, it’s not going to be good. I’d rather just be dead. So, when we hit the tree and I really wasn’t hurt, I was disappointed because I wanted to be dead. They pulled me out of the van and took me to the. . . arrested me and finally took me to a hospital, although they weren’t going to, but I said, you know, I really think I should go to a hospital. So, we went to the hospital. They put me in a little jail in Tennessee. Then two days later they had someone from Kansas came and picked me up and took me back to go to court in Kansas.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay. How did court go? You and John are separated.
Toby Dorr: Right, right. Yea. I didn’t see him again for a long time. Then, that’s a different story. Prison, jail, I was in jail. Jail and prison are totally different. Jail, I was destroyed by being in jail. I didn’t know how to be in jail. John had always told me, if we get caught, Toby, they’re just going to give you a slap on the wrist. They’re not going to put you in jail. They don’t put people like you in jail. Well, they did. I wasn’t prepared. I remember my attorneys asked for a two-week continuance and I had a meltdown in court and said, I cannot be in this jail for two weeks. What are you thinking? Well, I was there for a lot longer. It was just a big wake-up call. The beautiful thing about it is I ended up getting sentenced to 27 months in prison. There was this pivot point when I realized for the first time in my life, I had no responsibilities. I had no deadlines. I had no appointments. I didn’t have to cook for anybody. I didn’t have to take anybody anywhere. I didn’t have to be somewhere. I just had this gift of time which I had never had in my life, and I decided I could use that time to go back through my whole life and start picking it apart and figure out where the breaks were. What part of me was broken? What did I need to fix and to start to envision a life that I wanted to lead when I got out of prison?
Traci Brown: Do you want to share any insights? Like maybe one or two that you had where you were like, oh boy, I didn’t know I was doing that.
Toby Dorr: Prison was tough. It’s not easy. It’s not easy. But it’s something you can do if you have to do it. I realized that so many of the women that I met in prison were broken too, almost all of them. They had things in their lives that they needed to resolve, and I made some of the closest friendships I’ve ever had with those women in prison because there is no pretense in there. Everybody’s cut down to their lowest. It just is a good place to start building a foundation and move up.
Traci Brown: Did you do all 27 months? Did you get out early? How did all that . . . ?
Toby Dorr: I did all 27 months.
Traci Brown: Then, what was life like on the other side? Did you go back to your husband and your home?
Toby Dorr: My husband divorced me the day before I went to prison.
Traci Brown: Man.
Toby Dorr: We never really talked. I called him from jail, and I wrote him letters from jail, but he never answered me or took my calls. Then I did get out on bond for a little bit of time before I had to report to prison. He came to visit me one time, and he told me I had ruined his life and I’d ruined everybody’s lives, and so he divorced me. He had an emergency divorce and we got divorced in like two weeks.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. Okay. You’re cut free.
Toby Dorr: I was divorced, but it wasn’t good to rush it like that because then I got out of prison and I lost everything. I had to start over with nothing. I thought I could do that just fine because I’d never had trouble getting a job. I’d never had trouble supporting myself, but it didn’t work out that way because people don’t want to hire felons.
Traci Brown: Wow. What have you been doing? How long has it been since you’ve been out?
Toby Dorr: This February it will be 15 years since the escape. I’ve been out of prison for 12 years.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. Then what have you been doing? Tell us about that.
Toby Dorr: When I got out of prison, I had a lot of media coverage for my story. Actually, a guy I went to high school with was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, and he did a story about me while I was still in prison. It was on the front cover and so someone had read that article and offered me a job in Boston for when I got out of prison because he wanted me to build a website for him. I went to Boston, and I met my future husband there.
Traci Brown: Ohhhh! Okay.
Toby Dorr: It wasn’t very long. I was only there five months, but when I came back to Kansas City, Chris came with me. We shared a house. We rented a house. It was just a good friendship. It wasn’t anything romantic. We rented a two-bedroom house and then over a year’s time our relationship started to change a little bit, and we got married.
Traci Brown: So, you got a new husband.
Toby Dorr: Yes, and he’s awesome. He is my biggest supporter and my biggest fan and my soulmate. He’s the keel to my ship. My ship tends to fall this way or fall this way, and he’s the keel that keeps me on center.
Traci Brown: Oh, goodness. That’s sort of a happy ending.
Toby Dorr: It is a happy ending.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Toby Dorr: Helping John Maynard escape from prison was a stupid thing, and it was a desperate act of a desperate woman at a desperate time in her life. I wouldn’t do it today obviously. I’m not the same person. But in a strange way, I’m grateful for everything that happened because if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I feel like at this point my goal is to make a difference in the lives of women out there, to bring them hope, to show them that they have a path to redemption, that they can heal and rebuild their lives from whatever trauma they’ve had, and I think that’s an important message. I think this is the thing I was looking for when I had cancer and decided I needed to do something to change the world. That’s what I’m trying to do.
Traci Brown: Wow. I’ve got two questions for you. Do you have any regrets? How does that stack up for you?
Toby Dorr: Well, regret is an odd thing. Everybody asks me if I have had regrets. To me, regret is just a waste of time because there is absolutely no way you can change the past. Now, would I do the same thing today? No way. But I’m not the same person I was then. I don’t have any regrets because there is nothing you can do with a regret except to feel bad, and I refuse to do that. I choose to look forward and see what I can do in the future to make a difference in the world.
Traci Brown: Wow. Let’s bring this back to fraud now. A lot of people are really good at social engineering which is exactly I think the boat you fell into which is essentially high stakes illegal persuasion, I think, is what it is. Would you consider yourself taken advantage of, or were you equally responsible in getting to the point when you drove the van out? How do you stack that up and what are some of the things that people who are listening can really start to do, like a self-assessment, and see if they are vulnerable to something like this themselves? What do you think about those things?
Toby Dorr: Yea. I think that the biggest fraud in my life was the fraud I committed against myself, to not let myself even acknowledge how I really felt and to put a voice to the lack of a relationship that I had with my husband and the lack of fulfillment that I had in my life, and the lack of visibility to anyone that was important to me. I felt like I was an invisible person. I allowed that to happen. So, to anyone who asked, I would give them this perfect vision of my life, and I think so many of us do that. We don’t bring up the things that are wrong in our lives. We don’t allow ourselves to give a voice to them and acknowledge them. I think that was the biggest fraud. Now, I do know when you’re in a relationship with anybody, as a mother, you know what you can say to this particular son to influence him in this way, and you can’t say that to this son because he would react in a totally different way, so you have to approach him in this way to have him get his homework done.
Traci Brown: Right.
Toby Dorr: Did John Maynard do that to me when we were planning the escape? Probably. I probably did it to him. I think all of us know what buttons to push and what ways to sway someone towards our way of thinking. Did he do it maliciously? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I do think he loved me. I was vulnerable though. I was very vulnerable and another one of the risks that weren’t acknowledged was I could go into that prison anytime night or day, and I could go anywhere in the prison. I could go into the inmate’s cells alone. I could go into places that visitors never go. That was a mistake too, that unlimited access because I wasn’t prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared for the vulnerability of being in that situation.
Traci Brown: Have you talked to John or gotten in touch?
Toby Dorr: I have. I didn’t know anything about John, where he went, or what was going on in his life. About three or four years after I’d been out of prison, I got a call from a reporter and he said, “I’ve been talking to John Maynard, and he’d like to talk to you. Would it be okay if I gave him your phone number?” I talked to my husband, and Chris said, “Sure. Tell him to call. We’ll talk to him. He needs a friend.” So, John called and Chris and I both talked to him. We wrote to him for a year or two and talked on the phone every now and then. We sent him a Christmas basket at Christmas. Then my husband is from Maine, and we were going back to Maine to visit. John, at that time, was in a prison in New Hampshire. They transferred him to a prison in New Hampshire, and he said, “Toby, New Hampshire’s right next to me. You should stop and visit.” I said, “They’re not going to let us visit you. You’re crazy.”
Traci Brown: Yea, it didn’t go so good that last time, did it? (Laughing).
Toby Dorr: No, it didn’t. He said, “I’ll send you the visiting forms. All you need to do is just fill them out. Let’s just see what they say.” So, we filled them out, Chris and I both, and we got back “approved for a visit.” I kept thinking, what are they doing? They’re crazy. But anyway, we stopped and visited John. We had a two-hour visit with him, and it was a really good experience because I think, you know, I could finally put closure on that chapter.
Traci Brown: What happened to your dog program?
Toby Dorr: It kept going. They found some officers in the prison to keep it running. It still is running. I don’t think it’s as big as it used to be, but it continued on. I was really proud and happy about that because I was worried that they would just cancel it and close it, but they didn’t. They found a way to keep it going.
Traci Brown: Back to checking in on your own self, for people listening, is it mostly just checking in and see if you’re being honest with the relationships that you have right now, or is there another big piece that people can look at that says, wait a minute, warning, you’re vulnerable here?
Toby Dorr: I found that it so much easier to write things down. You will write things that you will never say. So, I think journaling was an awesome tool for me while I was in prison. If you just take time every day to write about things that you never would have thought you’d said out loud and things start to come out. In fact, I’ve created a planner for women to help them do just that. It’s also I think having a close friend. I didn’t have any friends in my life. I just had my husband. I was kind of isolated. I think, don’t isolate yourself. If you don’t have people you talk to, if you don’t have an activity that you do with different people, then maybe you should look at your life and see if you’re trapped in some way.
Traci Brown: Got it. Oh, wow. Okay. How are you helping people now? How can people get a hold of you? Because you’re doing a lot of good work with these lessons. Tell us about that.
Toby Dorr: I’ve created a series of workbooks. They’re called the Unleashed Series. The title of my memoir is Unleashed. It’s not published yet, but hopefully soon. In the workbooks, they are each 12-week workbooks, and they have lessons that really help you dig deep and find those things in your life that are broken that you’ve not been willing to admit or even been honest with yourself about. The workbooks are available on my website which is TobyDorr.com. I’ve started doing some public speaking to women’s groups who want to get involved and help other women. I have got my workbooks in some halfway houses and in some prisons. I’m just going to continue to grow that program.
Traci Brown: Oh, I love it. You’re doing virtual presentations as well, right?
Toby Dorr: Yea.
Traci Brown: Excellent. So, people don’t have to wait for conferences to come back.
Toby Dorr: That’s exactly right. I also have a program on my website where women can sponsor other women. If there’s a woman in prison who can’t afford to buy a book, that someone else can buy books for them. We have a sponsorship program in there as well.
Traci Brown: Oh, cool. Toby, thank you so much for coming on Fraud Busting. Your website, just so everybody knows is TobyDorr.com, right?
Toby Dorr: Right. That’s it.
Traci Brown: Yea. Make sure ya’ll look her up. Go there and watch these videos, if nothing else, from the car chase because it’s really something.
Toby Dorr: It was crazy. It was a pretty crazy ride.
Traci Brown: I guess, but you know what, I’m glad that you’re out there using this information for the better, to make the world a better place. Thank you so much!
Toby Dorr: You’re welcome, Traci. Thank you!