‘Extremely dangerous’ fugitive foiled by Portland mud pit

By Ryan Haas (OPB)
PORTLAND, Ore. Sept. 1, 2023 7:09 p.m.

Firefighters came across an unlikely find Friday morning when they responded to a call of a possibly dead person in North Portland. What they found without realizing it was a very much alive, wanted fugitive who escaped the Oregon State Hospital on Wednesday.

Oregon State Police confirmed that Christopher Lee Pray, 39, was back in police custody after firefighters pulled him from a mud pit near the Heron Lakes Golf Course that he had appeared to try swimming across.


The firefighters used a rope and ladder over the course of an hour to free Pray from the mud, which had consumed him up to his armpits.

Portland Fire & Rescue, unaware of who they were saving, commented live on the rescue on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.


Oregon State Police said emergency responders took Pray to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center to be evaluated for injuries, where he gave a fake name. A worker at the hospital recognized Pray after his face was widely publicized Thursday, and Portland police officers quickly arrested him.

Pray was originally arrested by police for a number of crimes, including an aggravated murder charge related to a March 12, 2022, attack. He was transported to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem on Wednesday due to his inability to participate in his own defense.

According to a state hospital spokesperson, Pray escaped custody around 11 p.m. that night when he managed to take control of a state-owned van and sped off. He led Oregon State Police on a chase along Interstate 5 southbound, but state troopers eventually let him go due to the danger to the public.

State police informed the public around 12 hours after that chase that Pray was on the loose and his whereabouts were unknown. It’s also unclear how, or when, Pray ended up driving north where he ended up in the pond near a North Portland golf course.

In a statement Friday, the Oregon State Police said they wanted to “thank the vigilant medical personnel who recognized Pray and alerted the authorities.”