Judging by her appearance, Marilyn Hartman is a good-natured lady and incapable of doing anything wrong. However, the 69-year-old woman was nothing but trouble in the world’s airports, where she managed to cheat security and travel more than thirty times for free without even carrying her documents.
Hartman, white-haired, elegant, and well-mannered, never needed a passport, ticket, or boarding pass. The authorities call her the “serial stowaway.”
In times when airport security is an obsession, having outwitted airport authorities for 19 years is astonishing to those who investigated her crimes.
She admits that she only walked with the other passengers, passed security, arrived at the waiting room, and then entered the plane and looked for a seat. It was that simple, according to her.
When she was caught, she simply pretended to be distracted and innocently made up any excuse. “I really don’t want to get anybody in trouble,” she told a police officer who asked how she got on a plane.
She was recently arrested two weeks after a judge rejected a plea agreement that would have granted her probation for an earlier attempted stowaway on a flight.
Hartman, while on probation and wearing an electronic monitoring device, again attempted to escape by stowing away on another flight. The device allowed Cook County Sheriff’s deputies to track her down as she made her way to O’Hare. Agents set off an alarm on Hartman’s device as she approached Terminal 1, where she was arrested.
Cook County Sheriff’s Department officials say the plan to pursue a felony escape charge for Hartman.
Hartman’s arrest comes two weeks after a court hearing in which Hartman’s attorneys and prosecutors said they reached a plea deal in a pending case that would have imposed 18 months of probation, plus court-ordered mental health treatment.
Formal guilty plea proceedings had not started, but Judge Peggy Chiampas notified attorneys that she was unwilling to accept that sentence.
Hartman was arrested at O’Hare in October 2019 just as she was trying to get through the second of two security checkpoints, according to court records. She was released from the Cook County Jail about a year ago, in an effort to free detainees at risk of contracting COVID-19.
The 2019 arrest violated her probation sentence for sneaking through O’Hare security in January 2018, boarding a plane, and flying to London Heathrow Airport without a ticket.
According to Hartman, her life as a stowaway began in 2002, when she managed to evade security and board a plane from Chicago to Copenhagen. Her next trip, that same year, was to Paris.
Within the United States, she traveled to cities such as Seattle, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Jacksonville. The woman, who has been captured many times, was described by a prosecutor as “persistent, if not relentless.”
In 2009, she was arrested while trying to leave Hawaii with another woman’s boarding pass. Her years of circumventing airport security came to an end when in 2014 she was arrested for traveling without a ticket from San Jose, California, to Los Angeles.
On that occasion, a judge released her on probation but the next day she was back at the Los Angeles airport. The police caught her again, and this time the judge sentenced her to six months in prison.
Hartman simply says that she likes to walk around airports because they make her feel safe and she feels the need to get on a plane and leave.