Woman who fled prison in '76 gets probation

Image: Susan LeFevre
Susan LeFevre addresses the court during a hearing in Detroit on Wednesday. LeFevre pleaded guilty to escape this month after a Wayne County circuit judge in Detroit unexpectedly offered her probation.Carlos Osorio / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A California woman who escaped from a Michigan prison 32 years ago and lived on the lam as a suburban mother was sentenced to probation Wednesday, five months after her capture.

"I knew for years this was coming," Susan LeFevre, 53, said.

Wayne County Circuit Judge David Groner said LeFevre had already served 14 months in prison on a drug conviction when she escaped.

"The court finds no reason to give you extra time," said Groner, who ordered two years of probation.

LeFevre was arrested last spring, living under the name Marie Walsh in the posh Carmel Valley neighborhood of San Diego where she is married with three children. She pleaded guilty to the escape Sept. 9.

LeFevre, 53, acknowledged it was wrong for her to scale the prison fence.

"It's a terrible thing to do. It's very hard to be a fugitive for so long," LeFevre told the judge.

LeFevre, however, is not a free woman. Her attorneys now will focus on trying to get her original 10-year sentence for heroin thrown out in Saginaw County Circuit Court. She's back behind bars in that case.

LeFevre, who was just 19 when arrested on a heroin charge, said she never expected to get 10 years in prison when she agreed to plead guilty in 1974. She climbed a prison fence in 1976, helped by her grandfather.

"I felt like I wanted to vindicate myself," LeFevre said of the escape. "I wasn't involved in drug trafficking at all. I was a recreational user."

'A good neighbor'
Swor said she was arrested when a friend attempted to sell a small amount of heroin to an undercover officer.

Her chance at parole comes after 5 1/2 years in prison, unless attorneys can get the original sentence scratched.

Assistant prosecutor Robert Donaldson did not object to probation for the escape. He acknowledged that LeFevre has led a "productive and meaningful life" but said living under an alias for years is fraud.

Her 82-year-old father sat in the front row for more than two hours waiting for LeFevre's case to be called. He said he gets letters from people in California who support his daughter.

"People say, 'She's helped my son. She's been a good neighbor.' There are so many people praying for her," Al LeFevre said.

"She has three kids who really need her."