Longform

The Story of the Handsome Guy Bandit Was Made for Hollywood*

The blood was starting to pool on the floor, forming interesting little patterns. To Steven Ray Milam, lying between his bunk and his locker, they looked like mesas, rising from the concrete as the blood began to clot.

I'm still alive, Milam realized, opening his eyes and watching his cell swim hazily into focus. I need to get those razors off the sink.

He thought slashing the veins in his neck and arm would've done the job. Blood had shot three feet into the air when he sliced them near the crook of his elbow, spraying the wall. He'd even pumped his arm, trying to make the blood drain more quickly. But he was still here.

There was little else in the cell — just the bunk, the toilet, the sink, his locker and a table bolted to the wall. He'd set a note on the table earlier that day, with instructions that it be forwarded to a U.S. Attorney, an FBI agent, his lawyer and his wife.

"In the event of my death, please contact my wife Jamie," the note began. "Please instruct her that my wishes are that she cremate my body and equally divide my ashes between her and my son, my two favorite people in this world. ... Please forward remaining commissary funds and property to my wife to help defer the cost of cremation."

Always mindful of prison rules, he added a P.S.: "Please take any costs for copying or mailing said copies from my commissary account."

He also added instructions for his lawyer: "Upon my death, please have all warrants, complaints, indictments, proceedings, etc., both federal and state lodged against me to be vacated. Furthermore, since I have not been convicted of any crimes, have all property currently seized by the FBI both directly and indirectly be released to the custody of my wife, Jamie Milam. Review what happened in the Kenneth Lay Enron trial. ... Please have Jamie and Brendon Milam auction off the mask and split the proceedings. Furthermore, help them secure a book or movie deal ..."

Now, the razors. He had to get to them, to finish what he'd started. He remembers lifting his head from the pillow he'd laid on the floor, trying to stand. But the blood was sticking him down, forming a seal as it hardened. He finally broke free and staggered to his feet, only to immediately crash down again.

He hit the toilet, breaking the porcelain, and rolled toward the door of his cell. Milam realized suddenly that he could no longer see. An inmate doing laps in the hallway peered in through the tiny window to the cell. Then he screamed.

A jail counselor came running. He threw open the door and waded into the blood, not pausing to put on gloves. He knelt beside Milam.

"Do you want to live?" he asked.

Milam found, to his surprise, that he did.

"Yes," he managed to say, before the blackness rolled in again.


The Handsome Bandit's origin story, at least as Milam recalls it, has the precise look of a big-budget action movie. It was the winter of 2005, he says, and three or four guys were shooting the shit one night at the bar of Shuck N Jive, a Cajun joint in North Dallas where Milam's then-girlfriend, Alli, was a manager. The news came on. Something about a bank robbery.

"I've always wanted to do that," one guy said. Agreement all around. A few hours later, there they were, robbing a bank.

No drugs were involved in this abrupt decision, Milam says, and there was no pressing financial need. They robbed "a few" banks, he says — how many he can't quite recall — with no particular system and no special plans for the money. They used it, he says, mainly for stays at the Four Seasons and shopping trips to impress women.

"He's embellishing," Alli counters. "I think there was only one person who had a clue what he was doing. It was not a group. I'm positive of that."

Milam and Alli were in the midst of a whirlwind romance. He'd been hanging around the restaurant for weeks, angling for a date. Eventually she relented. A few weeks later a friend of Milam's told her, "Boy, you really aced it."

She had no idea what he meant.

"Steve's a millionaire," the friend explained. Milam had recently sold his pool-cleaning chemical company for something like $37 million.

Alli didn't much care about money, but Milam could be lavish with it. For her birthday he rented a limo for a night on the town. And after just two months of dating, he took her to see a huge diamond. He said he was buying it as an "investment," but as they stood there with the jeweler, he suddenly blurted out, "Actually, this is going to be for you."

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan