BOSTON – In Massachusetts, he is a twice-convicted murderer who vanished after escaping from prison. In Illinois, he is a poet and anti-war protester devoted to his local Unitarian church.
The two lives of Norman Porter (search) crumbled in Chicago on Tuesday, when undercover police investigators arrested the man who 20 years ago fled from justice here and built a new life in Chicago.
"He had us all fooled," said C.J. Laity, who knew Porter from poetry readings. "I've known him for many, many years. Obviously, I didn't know him as well as I thought."
An extradition hearing was set for Wednesday.
Porter's whereabouts have been a mystery to police since he walked away from a prerelease center in Walpole in December 1985. Ever since his escape, he has been at the top of the Massachusetts State Police's "Most Wanted" list.
In 1960, at age 21, Porter shot and killed John Pigott, a 22-year-old store clerk, during a robbery of a clothing store.
While he was awaiting trial, Porter and another inmate escaped from jail. They overpowered the jail master, David S. Robinson, then shot and killed him with a smuggled gun.
Porter, who wasn't accused of pulling the trigger in Robinson's killing, eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in both cases and was sentenced to consecutive life terms. However, in 1975, then-Gov. Michael Dukakis (search) commuted one of those sentences.
During his 26 years behind bars, Porter earned his high school diploma and was working toward a college degree. He escaped in 1985 after he was transferred to a minimum security prison.
Porter's friends in Chicago said Jacob "J.J." Jameson — as they know him — has been living in the city for the past 20 years. Porter, 65, was arrested in the Third Unitarian Church (search).
"I've always known him to be a perfect gentleman, quite active in the community," said Charles Paidock, who met Porter more than a decade ago at a forum on free speech and other social issues.
Paidock, who was working on a play with Porter, said he never saw anything in his friend to suggest a violent past.
"This is absolutely a complete and total shock," he said.
About a month ago, a tipster reportedly told Massachusetts police that Porter was living in the Chicago area. Investigators matched Porter's fingerprints to his 1993 arrest on theft charges in Chicago, in which he used the Jameson alias.
Porter acknowledged his real identity when police arrested him, saying, "I had a good 20 years," according to Detective Lt. Kevin Horton of the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension unit (search).