Walkaways make up most of escaped Michigan prisoners
Detroit — Of about 40 convicts on the loose from the Michigan Department of Corrections, all are believed to have walked away from work details or lightly secure facilities except one.
Antonio Vasquez Torres was arrested in 1978 while taking a large shipment of heroin to the Detroit area. He was sentenced to prison in Michigan for violating the state’s drug law. Torres was later sent to California to face drug charges in that state when he escaped in 1979 from San Mateo County Jail.
He is among more than 130 state prison escapees nationwide listed as on the loose, The Associated Press found in a coast-to-coast survey. The AP asked all states for a current total of escapees from secure, locked state prisons where they were held full time. Some states couldn’t immediately provide an answer, and others responded only for recent decades, so the total is almost certainly higher than the 134 the AP counted.
Michigan’s absconder recovery unit tries to track down convicts who should be behind bars and have somehow avoided capture after escaping to freedom.
“Every six months we review every single case,” Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz said. “We attempt to locate family members or victims of the original crime. Also, every few years we run their fingerprints through the FBI database to see if they may have been arrested under an alias.”
Another older escape case involves James Vigneau who was serving time for armed robbery when he walked away in 1977 from a clinic that now is a minimum security prison in Jackson, west of Detroit.
“There is not a prioritization in place,” Gautz said. “Aside from these two escapes, there are several dozen cases of walkaways, but none are considered very dangerous. The Michigan Department of Corrections will continue to search for them until we locate them or there is a reasonable assumption, based on their age, that they are no longer living.”
The department sometimes makes mistakes. Jamie Lewis, who escaped from prison in 1977 was arrested in San Diego last year. She was released after weeks in custody, though, after investigators learned that she had voluntarily surrendered back in 1982. Officials blamed the mix-up on incomplete records.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.