Just weeks ago, when a Wilmington jailbird took flight, this Sidebar reporter made a comment to his coworkers wondering why prison inmates bother to escape.
“They are always captured,” I wrote on the real-time messaging service our company uses so that we can all be in the same place in the same time, when we really aren’t. “And if they weren’t captured, imagine the life they would have to lead to evade capture.”
One of my colleagues responded by posting links to stories featuring several escapees—at least two of them from North Carolina facilities—who absconded decades ago and have managed to lead pretty normal, inoffensive lives.
One worked as a church deacon.
One lived a nomad’s existence, working odd jobs and impressing everyone he came across.
All were returned to custody as old men.
Now the Associated Press is reporting that a Florida man wanted for a 1977 deadly shooting was captured July 28 in Reidsville.
The man, 67-year-old William “Clay” Taylor lived with his wife under an assumed name. He didn’t escape from prison, per se, but vanished when indictments came down in 1980.
That’s 36 years on the lam, living a lie.
How is that even possible?
Driver’s licenses, social security numbers, family connections—how does one sidestep these things, running from the law while chasing some sense of normalcy?
I submit this: The era of fruitful flight is coming to an end. When Taylor and his contemporaries hit the fences, the NCIC database was a file cabinet. Cops didn’t have laptops in their cruisers, just a CB radio and a rotating Starsky and Hutch light.
Further, as evidenced by the manner in which more juvenile jail-breakers are collared (and inmates busted for infractions), today’s generation can’t stay off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever else long enough to fashion a new life for themselves.
No, sir. Never mind getting busted by facial recognition software when they apply for an out-of-state driver’s license, as was the case with 69-year-old Ronald Carnes, now sitting in Bertie Correctional Institution after 41 years on the run.
All authorities need to do today is sit back and wait for AWOL inmates to “check in” at their favorite club or share their location with their latest selfie.