SANTEE, Calif. – An attorney for a woman arrested in California 32 years after escaping a Detroit prison said he plans to petition Michigan's governor to commute the nine years remaining on her sentence.
Susan LeFevre, who married and raised three children in a posh San Diego suburb using the name Marie Walsh, has agreed to be extradited to Michigan to face the consequences of her 1975 guilty plea to drug-trafficking charges. She served one year of a 10- to 20-year sentence before climbing over a fence to meet her waiting grandfather in February 1976.
Now 53, LeFevre was arrested April 24 outside her home. She is being held at a women's jail in San Diego County, where she is bound by handcuffs and a plastic bracelet bearing the identity she never revealed to her husband of 23 years.
"Nobody is suggesting that she ought to just be able to walk away from this and have everybody forget, but we now have the benefit of perspective," Paul Denenfeld, LeFevre's lawyer in Grand Rapids, Mich., said Thursday. "By all indications she's been a good wife and mother and a good community person, so we think that presents extraordinary circumstances and we think that calls for governors to respond in kind."
Michigan corrections officials said LeFevre would return to Michigan within a few weeks and would be responsible for serving out her sentence. Under sentencing laws from the 1970s, she likely would have to serve at least 5 1/2 years before being eligible for parole in 2013, said Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan.
"She's not going to do 10 years," Marlan said.
Michigan officials do not plan to ask prosecutors in Wayne County, where LeFevre fled the Detroit House of Corrections, to pursue escape charges against her, he said. LeFevre may forfeit credit she earned for good time during her year in prison because she escaped.
The prison is now known as Robert Scott Correctional Facility.
LeFevre, who trained as a hospice worker and volunteered for political causes in California, said she tried to live a model life to atone for her past mistakes.
"I've tried to be exceptionally good," she told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday at the Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, a San Diego suburb. "I wanted to make a life as Marie, to make a point of being as disciplined as possible."
She said her behavior as a teenager, when she was despondent over the death of her high school sweetheart in the Vietnam War, was "inexcusable." She was 19 when she was arrested with a friend during an undercover drug operation at a pizza parlor outside Saginaw, Mich., in 1974.
Michigan corrections officials said investigators at the time believed she was making several thousand dollars a week selling heroin and knew top drug dealers in the area.
LeFevre said she supported herself working full-time at a Kmart after moving out of her parents' house. She said she agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and violation of drug laws to spare her family the embarrassment of a trial and expected to be put on probation. Instead, she was given the maximum sentence.
LeFevre said she hid her fugitive status from her husband and children until agents began actively looking for her late last year. Federal officials said an anonymous call tipped them to her name and location in March.