A California woman who was freed Tuesday after being captured last year following her escape from a Michigan prison in 1976 is thanking her family for supporting her during her incarceration.

Family members met Susan LeFevre, 54, at the Huron Valley prison, south of Ann Arbor. She told reporters before leaving in a Chrysler PT Cruiser that prison is a "very tragic, hard place," and her family's support helped her get through.

"It was just the most heartwarming experience — especially, I suppose, because I felt like it was so tragic for me, for sometimes thinking that I was facing many years locked in a prison," she said.

The 54-year-old LeFevre, married and with three children, was living a comfortable life in the San Diego area before she was arrested in April 2008, more than 30 years after climbing a fence at a prison in the Detroit area.

Lefevre spoke Tuesday of letters she received in prison from supporters.

"I just felt that with that many people praying for me, this was going to end up good, and it has," said LeFevre, who went by the name Marie Walsh in California. "I'm back with my family and very anxious to resume my life and go back to being Marie."

LeFevre was serving a 10-year sentence for a heroin crime in Saginaw County, and had served about 14 months before her escape.

In January, the Michigan Parole Board voted to release her from prison on the drug crime. Although LeFevre was living under a different name, the parole board noted that she has committed no crimes since her escape. Separately, a judge placed her on probation for the escape.