Md. prison escapee returns after 33 years on the run


Mug shut of Anthony Rackley, who prefers his alias, Jack Watson. (Reuters)

Anthony Rackley, the fugitive from Maryland who turned himself in to Oklahoma City authorities after 33 years on the run, has been returned to the Maryland prison system.

Rackley was picked up late last week by state police and corrections officers, according to Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for Maryland’s corrections department. Patricia White, Rackley’s friend and former landlady, said she received a letter from Rackley in which he recounted flying back to Maryland in a small state prop-jet. “Smoothest flight I’ve ever had,” he wrote.

Rackley had been waiting for several months at the Oklahoma County jail, from where he recounted his story of his life on the run — how he slipped away in 1980 from a pre-release program in Baltimore, traveled around the country and eventually settled in Oklahoma, where he became a Lions Club fundraiser, and, according to charitable folks down there, a helpful community member named Jack Watson who “was so kind and generous,” as one said.

Things turned really, really weird in November.

Rackley, who was working in an unorthodox capacity as a paid fundraiser for a Lions Club chapter, told authorities he was being extorted by another chapter member who allegedly knew he was a fugitive. The case was investigated, but authorities declined to press charges. A prosecutor called the spat a “he said, he said” and said, “You really can’t make this stuff up.” Rackley was locked up.

In jail, besides telling his story by phone in multiple interviews, Rackley reconnected with family members, including his sister, who hadn’t spoken to him in decades. They had both endured a rough childhood in Baltimore.

Maryland prison officials have been scrambling to piece together Rackley’s records. Originally incarcerated at age 18 for armed robbery, Rackley escaped just days after a parole hearing that he said went positively. Those records pre-date current electronic systems. Vernarelli said the Maryland Parole Commission would try to give Rackley a parole hearing within 90 days.

Rackley wants to return to Oklahoma City and continue his charitable work.

“I’ve never met better people,” he said. “I’ve never done better things. I’ve never had a better life.”

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post?s local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.
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