Michigan 'fugitive' arrested in California wasn't a fugitive

Michigan Department of Corrections

 (Michigan Department of Corrections)

Oops: The Michigan fugitive wasn't a fugitive after all.

Officials blamed a lack of information for the arrest of a San Diego woman who spent more than a month in jail before she was released Friday. Authorities had been trying to get her back to Michigan, where she had escaped from prison in 1977 while serving a sentence for attempting to steal women's clothes.

Jamie Lewis, known in the 1970s as Judy Hayman, insisted that a judge had sentenced her to time already served when she voluntarily returned from California in 1982 at the advice of a clergyman.

"If true, none of this information was contained in our file," Russ Marlan, spokesman at the state Corrections Department, said Monday.

The old court file couldn't be found, but Wayne County Judge Tim Kenny signed a correction Friday, leading to Lewis' release.

The judge "accepts the uncontested fact" that Lewis returned to court five years after her escape and was "excused from serving any more time on her old convictions," Marlan said.

Lewis' attorney in San Diego, Lisa Damiani, described the last several weeks as "frightening" for the 60-year-old. She said Lewis was evicted from her apartment while in jail and now is living with friends.

"She always had a lot of hope and belief that we'd take care of it," Damiani said. "The Michigan Department of Corrections — I kept hitting a brick wall with them. I had asked them to allow her to be released on bond while we straightened this out and they refused."

Lewis escaped from prison after serving eight months of a minimum 18-month sentence.

She was tracked down in California, partly because Lt. Charles Levens of the Corrections Department often was stuck in the office during a fierce Michigan winter and decided to blow the dust off old fugitive files. With the help of FBI fingerprint specialists, authorities found her in San Diego.

Marie Walsh, another San Diego woman who was captured in 2008 after escaping from a Michigan prison in 1976, said she's "thrilled" to hear about Lewis' release. Walsh fled prison while serving a sentence for a drug crime but was locked up again for 13 months.

"Searching for non-violent people decades after their crime is a tragic way to spend scarce funds," said Walsh, formerly known as Susan LeFevre. "How many dangerous people hurt others during the time spent having this woman dragged from her home and family?"