SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s perhaps the most notorious prison break in South Dakota’s history.

100 years ago, four men escaped from the state penitentiary after kidnapping the warden and stabbing the deputy warden on August 17th, 1922.

Their bold escape led to a massive manhunt that lasted for days and put the entire state on edge.

“August 17th marks the 100-year anniversary of the most infamous and wild prison break and manhunt in South Dakota history,” filmmaker Doug Lee said.

In 1922, these four men made headlines everywhere across the upper Midwest when they escaped from the South Dakota State Penitentiary after kidnapping the warden and stabbing the deputy warden.

“That began an 8-day manhunt through the country, machine gun battles, we’re talking about airplanes, we’re talking about motorcycles with machine guns mounted on them, posse, bloodhounds everybody in the state seemed to be searching for these guys,” Lee said.

Now 100 years later, filmmaker Doug Lee is doing some searching of his own; searching for the truth about one of the escapees.

“The more we dug into this story we realized, one of the individuals, in particular, was Joe Forman, who was supposedly the ring leader of the prison break,” Lee said.

Joe Forman was sent to the penitentiary in 1920 for larceny, but always felt he was wrongfully convicted.

Lee believes that too….all because of this.

“We found Joe’s personal writings, his journal which he documented in great detail, every detail of the manhunt, the prison break, what was happening, it reads like a movie script,” Lee said.

It’s an incredible find; a 400-page journal written in pencil that Forman kept detailing everything that had happened to him and the other three escapees.

According to his journal after their prison break, the four went south into Nebraska and were spotted near Niobrara.

Stealing cars along the way, they made their way back into South Dakota and stopped near Murdo, where a horrific scene unfolded.

According to his journal, when they were spotted by law enforcement, they shot the sheriff, state’s attorney and another man in what’s become known as the Murdo Massacre.

“Joe always said he was innocent of the Murdo Massacre, he wasn’t even there at the actual time when the other three had walked the guys down into the draw and shot them,” Lee said.

Miraculously all three survived.

It wasn’t until days later, the four escapees were confronted by the posse north of Wall. They shot up their stolen car and killed one of the escapees in the process, Henry Coffee.

According to his journal, the three surviving escapees, including Forman, were brought back to the penitentiary and tried on several charges including attempted murder.

A photography company from Sioux Falls captured it all.

“They headed out and met up with the posse; they actually took film of that of them being brought back and going through the towns and there would be people lining the streets and if we could find that piece of video that piece of film that would be truly fascinating,” Todd Thorin said.

Rancher Scott Bartlett of Burke knew Joe Forman personally.

“I first spent some time with Joe when he worked on my grandfather’s ranch,” Bartlett said.

When Forman got out of prison in 1944, he went to work for Bartlett’s grandpa. He says he was only eight or nine at the time. Forman was already an old man.

But he says no one in the family knew of Forman’s criminal past.

“There’s a lot of people around the area who knew my grandfather would hire about anybody who was willing to work,” Bartlett said.

Despite their age difference, Bartlett says he became friends with Forman.

“He always took the time to teach us different things and skills that he knew, he knew the constellations and we’d go out at night and he’d show us different constellations and stars and point them out,” Bartlett said.

But Forman never opened up to Barlett about what he had done or was involved in, until one day Barlett was reading the True West Frontier Times.

In it was a detailed article about Forman and the infamous prison break of 1922.

“And I thought that can’t be the same guy; some of the things that were said about him, they talked about this vicious killer and I thought there’s no way,” Barlett said.

He says Forman was always nice and respectful to others.

He too believes Forman couldn’t have done all the things he was accused of committing.

“This has nagged me my whole life,” Barlett said.

So now he, along with Lee and his film crew, are on a quest to find the truth about Joe Forman, a man they believe was wrongfully imprisoned in the first place.

“Everything we’ve read from Joe says that the whole purpose of the prison break was to get out, hire an attorney and prove his innocence,” Lee said.

They all admit, Forman wasn’t an angel by any means.

“But he definitely was not the monster that he was portrayed to be, I don’t see any of that in his writings,” Thorin said.

“You know I think that Joe was portrayed by the media as somebody totally different than the man that I knew,” Bartlett said.

“Joe wasn’t a perfect man, but he certainly wasn’t the bloodthirsty killer the press made him out to be,” Lee said.

Forman died in 1971, but his story, that’s well documented, will live on forever and that’s why they’re doing the documentary to try and unlock the truth.

In his journal, Forman wrote about receiving a letter from the judge years later, notifying him that he wrongfully sentenced him to seven years in prison.

Lee and his film crew are continuing to do more research, so there’s no timeline on when it’ll be finished.