updated 1/19/2006 10:48:42 AM ET 2006-01-19T15:48:42

Police arrested a man accused of faking his death more than 25 years ago to avoid paying child support.

Johnny Sterling Martin, 58, had a relative call Family Court in 1979 and report that he died during a bar fight in Alabama, authorities said. That call came a few months after he escaped from a work detail while serving a one-year jail term for failing to pay $4,120 in support for two children.

He was captured Tuesday and jailed, and now owes more than $30,000 in child support and faces an escape charge, authorities said.

“Johnny Martin is the ultimate deadbeat dad, faking his own death to avoid paying money to support his young children who were living in Lexington County,” Sheriff James Metts said.

Martin has been living in Myrtle Beach, about 150 miles away, and had been using his real name for about 20 years, investigators. He has been married four times — twice since his disappearance — and has a third child, sheriff’s Maj. John Allard said.

The investigation was reopened last week when police got a tip from one of Martin’s ex-wives that he was alive and living in Myrtle Beach. A fingerprint analysis confirmed Martin’s identity, investigators said.

They are working to identify the caller who told family court Martin was dead.

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