SCRANTON, Pa. – Federal marshals think they may finally know what happened to a state prison inmate who escaped from a work detail after a devastating flood almost a half-century ago.
The U.S. Marshals Service says William Van Scoten was working on a State Correctional Institution-Dallas prison detail aiding relief efforts in the Wyoming Valley after Hurricane Agnes caused widespread damage in 1972. Van Scoten, who was 43 years old, was two years into a 10- to 20-year sentence on a burglary conviction.
Officials said Friday that a family member told them that Van Scoten assumed the name of David Paul Hudson and was living in Ontario, Canada, and died in August 2003 in Waterford, Ontario, of emphysema and heart disease. Marshals said they hoped to get confirmation through fingerprints from authorities in Canada.
The Trentonian newspaper, of Trenton, New Jersey, reported that Van Scoten's son Dave Hudson said Van Scoten told him about his past in the summer of 2002 after he returned home to Canada following service with the U.S. Marines. Hudson told the paper that David Paul Hudson would watch "America's Most Wanted" with rapt attention when it aired.
"He would just sit there and have this look on his face, hoping he didn't come on there," he said. "I never knew for years, and then when I finally found out, everything started to make sense."
Van Scoten escaped from Trenton State Prison in 1961 by fashioning a dummy and climbing over the walls, spending five years on the run until his arrest in upstate New York.
In July 1972 he was serving a term at SCI-Dallas and was assigned to a kitchen detail at Independent Hose Co. in Kingston when he fled, according to the original wanted poster, The Citizens' Voice, of Wilkes-Barre, reported. Shortly afterward, he entered Lake Erie and "didn't stop swimming until he was in Canada" at Port Dover, Dave Hudson said.
Van Scoten then worked on tobacco farms, where he met his wife, and later had a dairy farm, had a heavy-equipment business and did demolition work, Dave Hudson said. He also kept his two sons out of trouble.
"There was no screwing around," Dave Hudson said, adding that when he was growing up "almost all of our family friends were police officers."
The U.S. Marshals Service said Canadian authorities generally fingerprint those who die and it's awaiting confirmation of Van Scoten's identity as David Paul Hudson.
"It is important that the public know and fugitives know, we will never stop searching for those who try and escape justice," U.S. Marshal Martin J. Pane said in a statement.