Former Michigan prison escapee Susan Marie LeFevre hopes for mercy after 32 years on the lam
by Allison Hoffman | The Associated Press
Thursday May 01, 2008, 7:25 AM
SANTEE, Calif. – Marie Walsh kept a low profile for 32 years, trying to escape her past life as Susan LeFevre.
Michigan Department of Corrections photo, 1975
The Thomas Township native raised three children with her husband of 23 years, Alan, who never knew she was using an assumed identity. Authorities wanted her for escaping from a Detroit prison a year into a maximum 20-year sentence on heroin charges.
Courtesy | Walsh family via APSusan LeFevre, now known as Marie Walsh
Now, LeFevre, 53, is in jail awaiting extradition from California to Michigan on an escape warrant. Authorities say she likely faces years in prison before she is eligible for parole.
She was arrested April 24 outside her home in San Diego’s posh Carmel Valley area, wearing a sweat suit and driving a black Lexus SUV. Authorities say an anonymous caller who tipped Michigan authorities blew her cover.
“It’s been a secret no one knew for so long, and now everyone knows,” LeFevre said from Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, a San Diego suburb. “I hope there’s some mercy.”
LeFevre, who grew up the second of five children, was 19 when police arrested her during an undercover drug operation in Thomas Township in 1974. She said she got into drugs after high school because she was despondent over the death of her teenage sweetheart in the Vietnam War.
Her parents, strict Catholics who took away her John Lennon albums and prohibited their daughter from wearing faded blue jeans, encouraged her to plead guilty to spare the family the embarrassment of a court trial, she said. LeFevre said she agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and violation of drug laws in hopes of winning leniency, but received the maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years.
“I kept thinking it had to be a mistake. I was supposed to have probation,” LeFevre said.
ï¿½?ï¿½ RELATED STORY: Differing tales emerge about Susan LeFevre, 32-year prison escapee and suburban California mother
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She said that while she had used drugs, she had never sold them. Steve Jurman, the U.S. Marshals Service officer who arrested LeFevre, said, "She told me, ‘It was the 1970s. Everybody was doing heroin. It’s not like it is today.’ "
LeFevre said other inmates threatened her at the Detroit House of Corrections, now known as Robert Scott Correctional Facility. One night, she decided she had to leave.
Lenny Ignelzi | Associated PressSusan Marie Lefevre, now known as Marie Walsh, sits alone in the prisoners- visitors area at the Las Colinas Detention Facility Wednesday, April 30, 2008 in Santee, Calif.
Her grandfather and another relative agreed to meet her, and in February 1976 LeFevre walked across an open yard, threw her jacket over a barbed wire fence and climbed over, then started running.
“They had helicopters looking for me. … You don’t think about fear, you don’t have time. You just run,” she said.
When she got to the car, her relative was saying a rosary for her. A few weeks later, friends let her ride with them to California, where she changed her name to Marie, her middle name.
LeFevre said only a few people knew her secret. She said she told a fiance, who broke their engagement. She kept it secret when she married her husband of 23 years, Alan Walsh.
“We’re still just getting over this, but it’s been a tremendous shock to us,” Alan Walsh said.
He described his wife as a woman of “the highest integrity and compassion.”
A brother said he periodically heard rumors that she was living in California.
“There was always a big question as to where she was, but then this happened,” said David LeFevre of Cass City. “Well, it surprises you after all these years.”
Jurman said the fugitive established her new life with a Social Security number belonging to someone who died in 1981, a number she said she made up. She obtained a California driver’s license using a false date of birth but didn’t risk renewing it after it expired in 1999.
Lenny Ignelzi | Associated PressSusan Marie Lefevre, now known as Marie Walsh is handcuffed before returning to her cell at the Las Colinas Detention Facility Wednesday, April 30, 2008 in Santee, Calif.
“Obviously, she had done a good job of obtaining and maintaining a new identity and could have gone another 10 years undiscovered if it hadn’t been for this tip,” said Jurman. “She was extremely comfortable with her new identity. It wasn’t like she was actively trying to hide or anything.”
Jurman said LeFevre initially denied her identity but admitted it once he told her she could face additional charges for lying to a federal agent. She told him her husband and children knew nothing of her past.
“Can you imagine? You think you know everything about your spouse,” Jurman said. "She immediately broke down and said, ‘I was a child; I don’t know why I got involved in this.’ "
A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections disputed Lefevre’s version of her arrest and conviction. Spokesman Russ Marlan said records show that she was acquainted with several large-scale drug dealers, had drug paraphernalia in her home in Thomas Township and was making money as a dealer.
She probably will have to serve between five and nine years in prison before she is eligible for parole, Marlan said.
“She has a prison sentence to fulfill,” Marlan said. “We can’t, even if we wanted to, negate that prison sentence. What kind of message would that send to 50,000 other prisoners in Michigan? If you escape and live clean, you can have your sentence dropped if you’re caught?”
Alan Walsh said he will support his wife.
“Our family is threatened to be destroyed by something that happened to her as a 19-year-old teenager 34 years ago in Michigan,” he said.[/i]
Why are non-violent offenders thrown into prison in the first place? I hate conspiracy theories but how else could one explain this ridiculousness other than influence by the prison-industrial complex? We have 300 million people living in this country and nearly 2 million people locked in prison. How many of those people should really be there?