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Escaped Prisoner Turns Himself In After 39 Years for the Health Care

A 66-year-old Kentucky man turned himself in after 39 years as a fugitive because he wants to go back to prison for the health care, authorities said.
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/ Source: NBC News

Ronnie Dickinson of Frankfort, Kentucky, turned himself in to authorities with an incredible story, sheriff's officials said Tuesday: His name isn't Ronnie Dickinson, he's been a fugitive for nearly 39 years and he wants to go back to prison for the health care.

Clarence David Moore, 66, called the Franklin County Sheriff's Office on Monday and said he wanted to turn himself in, the sheriff's office said. When deputies arrived, they found Moore — who'd been living in Frankfort since 2009 and had ID'd himself as Ronnie Dickinson — partially paralyzed and unable to walk because of a recent stroke. He was arrested and taken by ambulance to a hospital for examination before he was taken to the Franklin County Regional Jail.

Sheriff Pat Melton told NBC station WLEX of Lexington on Tuesday that Moore said he'd escaped from the Henderson County, North Carolina, Prison Unit in the mid-1970s and has been on the lam for almost four decades.

But as he got sicker, he couldn't get medical coverage to pay for the complications of his stroke and other health problems, because he doesn't have a valid Social Security number under his alias.

"You can't make this up," Melton said.

North Carolina prison records show that Moore, in fact, escaped at least three times from state prisons — the first time in 1971, as he was serving an eight-year sentence for larceny. He was caught within hours, but he escaped again the next year and remained loose until 1975 before he was captured.

Finally, on Aug. 6, 1976, he vanished again — this time, seemingly, for good.

What Moore's been doing for the last almost 39 years remains unclear; Melton said he has difficulty talking because of his stroke. Since 2009, however, he's been the frail, bearded man who was always pleasant to folks in Frankfort, if somewhat reserved, said Edward Jordan, a neighbor.

"I'm shocked," Jordan told WLEX. "I can't believe it.

"He's a diabetic and I'm a diabetic, and we'd sit on the porch and talk about that," Jordan said.

Moore was arraigned Tuesday morning and waived extradition to North Carolina on a charge of being a fugitive from another state. He was being held without bond pending his being returned sometime this week.

Whatever happens, he won't go back to the same prison he escaped from in 1976. It closed in 2002.

IMAGE: Clarence David Moore, aka 'Ronnie Dickinson'
Clarence David Moore, aka 'Ronnie Dickinson.'Franklin County, Kentucky, Sheriff's Office