ATLANTA – A woman who escaped from a Georgia prison 33 years ago has been recaptured in east Texas.
Federal marshals arrested Deborah Gavin, 53, at her home Wednesday in Frankston, Texas.
Gavin, who was serving time on an armed robbery conviction out of Gwinnett County, escaped from the Georgia Women's Correctional Institution in Baldwin County in 1974.
In the following years, Gavin moved from state to state, living in Tennessee, Florida and Texas. She met and married Richard Murphey, changed her last name and had two children, authorities said.
She got a nurse's license and worked at a hospital. When her back and heart conditions worsened and she was too weak to work in a medical ward, Gavin started a quilting business from inside her two-story home.
And through it all, Gavin stayed out of trouble.
"As far as we know, she's been completely clear," said Ricky Myrick, chief investigator with the Georgia Department of Corrections. "There were no hits on fingerprints. We've never been notified by any agency that her prints matched those of someone they arrested."
Richard Murphey said he visited his wife Thursday in the Anderson County, Texas, jail, and said she refused to sign her extradition papers.
He said Friday his wife told him she fled the Georgia women's prison because prisoners there were being subjected to sexual abuse.
"They were having rapes and molesting the women, the guards were. That's why she took off. It floored me when I seen it on the Internet that she'd left six times," he said.
The women's prison in Hardwick was the center of a sex scandal which broke in the early 1990s. Investigations prompted by lawsuits turned up cases going back for years of guards having sex with inmates. All the women were moved out of the prison in 1993 and it became a men's prison.
Records show Gavin had escaped from the facility several times before her final escape, once fleeing as far away as Louisiana. Each time she was recaptured. At the time, the prison had no fences and security was lax, officials said.
But in July 1974 — a month after her last recapture — Gavin again broke loose. This time, she disappeared.
Gavin's time as an escaped convict began to end when the U.S. Marshal Service's Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force got the case.
"If the case comes to the Marshal Service, it never goes away," said Supervisory Inspector James Ergas. "Someone is always on the case."
The search for Gavin wound through much of the Southeast until investigators found she was in Frankston living under the name Deborah Murphey.
Since Monday morning, marshals watched the house to make sure Deborah Murphey was indeed Gavin. To talk to her and verify her identity, they posed as city municipal employees and told her they were checking on a work order at the house.
"Thirty-three years is a long time," Ergas said. "They didn't want to jump a 53-year-old woman and drive her to the ground if it was the wrong person."
Then at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the marshals surrounded her house and knocked.
Gavin came to the door with a shotgun, heard them out and surrendered.
"We expected her to say, 'That's not me, that's not me,"' said Jason Watson, a corrections employee assigned to the fugitive task force. "She just said she knew this day was going to come. But she hadn't prepared for it yet."
Before being taken away, Gavin made a phone call to her husband, who was at work at a construction site.
"All she said was when I got home, she wasn't going to be there," Murphey said.