DETROIT – A California woman captured last year after escaping from a Michigan prison 33 years ago and living on the lam as a suburban mother has been granted probation, a state parole board ruled Wednesday.
Susan LeFevre was given two years of probation, but her behavior in prison will be closely watched until her May 19 release date because of several misconducts, said Russ Marlan, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
"If there is significant misconduct, they'll revisit the case," Marlan said. The misconducts include disobeying orders from guards, getting into a verbal altercation with an inmate and keeping medication under a mattress, he said.
LeFevre's lawyer, Barbara Klimaszewski, said her client had been suffering from depression, but added "we have light at the end of the tunnel and that's a great thing."
LeFevre, 54, escaped from a Michigan prison in 1976 after serving about 14 months of a 10-year drug sentence in Saginaw County. LeFevre has said she never expected to get 10 years in prison when she agreed to plead guilty in 1974.
She made her way to California, got married and raised a family in the San Diego area.
Marlan said the parole board noted that she has committed no crimes since her escape.
"The chairman summed it up: They want prisoners to walk out of prison and to live an existence like she lived, not committing violations of the law and living a productive life," he said.
Saginaw County Prosecutor Mike Thomas said he was disappointed by the ruling because he wanted LeFevre to serve the same length in prison — at least 40 months — as her co-defendant in the drug case. If freed in May, she will have served more than a year short of that length.
"I don't agree with the decision of the parole board, but it's their authority," Thomas said.
LeFevre has said she escaped because she feared for her safety in prison. Since her capture, her lawyers had been fighting to get the 10-year drug sentence thrown out as too excessive for a first-time offender.
The board did not spend much time discussing her sentence for a heroin sale, although members believed she has wrongly tried to minimize her role, Marlan said.
"They believed without question that she was a significant player in the drug trade," he said.