Skip to comments.Escaped Convict Recaptured After 38 Years
Posted on 05/20/2006 5:20:08 AM PDT by decimon
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After 38 years, Michael Robert Smith figured no one was looking for him anymore. He escaped from prison on June 7, 1968, while serving time for a robbery conviction, then headed to Nevada, then New Jersey and into a marriage that didn't work out. Finally, five years ago, Smith moved to a tiny trailer in a heavily wooded area of Creek County, Okla. It turned out the California Department of Corrections was still on his trail.
Authorities found him Thursday, his clothes paint-splattered from one of the few jobs he could hold without a driver's license or other identification.
"He looked at the ground a little bit, then he looked up and said, `Yeah, that's me,'" Creek County Sheriff's Detective Les Ruhman said Friday. "He didn't dream people would be looking for him for so long."
The case had long grown cold until December 2003, when Judy Foster, a special agent at the California corrections department who found another escaped convict in 2004, reopened the investigation.
Smith's family and friends all denied knowing where he had gone, but Foster eventually discovered that Smith was using the his mother's maiden name - Gallion - and living outside Sapulpa, 13 miles southwest of Tulsa.
"The truth is, we never stop looking for these people," said department spokeswoman Terry Thornton. She refused to explain how Foster found the men, saying she didn't want to tip off future escaped convicts.
A department report says 21 inmates escaped from prisons and camps last year, and 20 from community programs. Of those, 31 had been recaptured, the report said.
Smith's case was unusual because he escaped from a prison, while most escaped convicts walk away from a work camp or community program, said department spokeswoman Elaine Jennings.
Smith, now 63, is being held without bond and likely will be shipped back to California within 10 days, after an extradition hearing.
He had served three years of a five years-to-life sentence at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, 67 miles southeast of San Jose.
"It's just amazing he made it all these years and never had a run-in with the law," Ruhman said.
Isn't the statute of limitations, 7 years, for most everything except murder?
Living in a trailer park with the constant threat of tornados is punishment enough.
"She refused to explain how Foster found the men, saying she didn't want to tip off future escaped convicts."
I think that should call for a hearing and investigation and disclosure of what they're doing at the California corrections department.
P.S. And have you ever been to Soledad? No wonder he left.
I reluctantly agree. He obviously isn't a threat to the community and he seems to have shown that. There are plenty of people running free right now who need to occupy a jail cell much more than this guy.
Probation wouldn't be letting him off scot-free.
Yeah, where's the ACLU supporting the rights of jail breakers? Put him on the Hillary! campaign staff.
The statute only holds if you haven't already been convicted of a crime.
The huge un-answered question in the aritcle is what he was in prison for. His original sentence was 5 years to life. They don't throw out "life" sentences for jaywalking. Giving him probation is the moral equivalent of giving amnesty to illegal aliens.
Not a lawyer, but... He was caught and convicted within the statute time period. I escaping, he committed a second crime for which, I think, there is no statute of limitations.
Nonetheless, with nothing to go by but this news article, he seems no threat to repeat his crimes so I would would put him on probation.
The Statute of Limitations stops when you've been indicted, even in absentia or "john doe." IIRC that is.
No. I've not always been a saint but I am prison averse.
Agreed. No suggestion, in the news article, of violence against persons to warrant that "...to life" part.
I think it was for robbery.
Thanks for the clarity.
Maybe they could grant him "not amnesty." Restore full citizenship, grant him social security benefits, offer him some incentives to blend in with society, etc. Or is that just for a different type of lawbreaker.
What a numb nut. This guy should have worked on a Spanish accent and claimed he was an illegal. He could have moved to CA and fit right in. Just one of millions. My name ees Jose Jimenez!
Meanwhile, 12~20M alien law-breakers roam the country freely and the President wants to grant them Amnesty that's not Amnesty.
Read through all the replies. I'm still trying to form a reasonable opinion about what to do with this guy. Yes, he escaped prison. Yes, he was in prison for armed robbery, but went 38 years without further breaking the law.
The court system is a punitive system, but I cannot see how sticking him back in prison is going to do him or society(taxpayers) any good.
The article mentions robbery but not armed robbery. But considering his sentence, that is a good assumption.
You have to give the guy 60 to 90 days just so there's no reward for being an escapee. Generally 63 year old criminals have passed the burn out stage and no longer pose a threat to society.
"but I am prison averse."
Me too, but I was talking about the town of Soledad. Hot, dry, ugly, out in the middle of nowhere. Somewhat lacking in charm to say the least.
At his age, getting caught was actually the best thing that could have happened to this guy. Besides the problem of getting the medical assistance he was sure to need soon as he continued to age without a drivers license or insurance etc.., it wasn't like he could go down to the Social Security office and apply for benefits.
...kidnapping and defrauding the IRS...
And we would never do THAT!!!
We have done it in the past. Right or wrong, all I'm saying is that it poses the same ethical delimma.
I'd say jail him for some token period of time, including time served awaiting any hearings, etc., plus some longish period of probation, and call it a day.
But that's just me...
That's right, it sure ain't no Chular (born & raised in Salinas). I got to spend a whole day in the Soledad Correctional Facility when I got out of the service, testing for CO. Man, what a hole. BTW, when did they move Soledad 67 miles SE of San Jose??
Maybe North Carolina could hire this investigator to find Frank Cuthbertson who still has an active arrest warrant out for him. He shouldn't be to hard to find since his is a current sitting superior court judge in Pierce county, WA.
If he were a Mexican, wouldn't they just practice "catch and release"?
Forget for a moment what we should do with him. FOr 38 years he's been a fugitive, living ILLEGALLY outside of his prison.
So, ANYBODY here think he should lose all the social security credit he built up while working over the last 38 years?
I agree since he has not been in any more trouble. I think most people would have no idea how to go about paying Mexicans to help them or create a whole new identity on their own. That is so easy to say but I can't imagine walking up to a Mexican and asking that.
I don't think he's been accruing SS credits.
Not if your white
Not if your white
There's a difference between those who just escaped and those who escaped a long time ago and have been working, paying taxes, and supporting their families ever since. I think any jail-breaker who isn't caught withing five years should be let go. They should be given, what's the word or phrase I'm looking for . . . a-a-a- . . .a-a-a-m . . . oh yeah, earned citizenship!
(Denny Crane: "Every one should carry a gun strapped to their waist. We need more - not less guns.")