Maryland prison escapee turns himself in after 33 years

November 9, 2013

A man who said he had escaped from the Maryland prison system more than 30 years ago turned himself in to police in Oklahoma last week after what appeared to be one of the longer periods on the run to come to light.

Police in Oklahoma City said a man first called them Monday using the name Jack Watson. Then, the police said, he called again, gave what he said was his true name, Anthony Rackley, and described himself as a fugitive from Maryland, who they said “escaped from a Maryland prison in July 1980.”

According to the report, Rackley, 62, told police that he had become a victim of extortion from someone to whom he had once divulged his story. When demands upon him increased, Rackley said, he “decided enough was enough” and called police.

Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Rackley’s case pre-dates electronic records and that authorities are trying to pull old paperwork including arrest and incarceration records.

The spokesman said Rackley had about five years left on his sentence for either an armed robbery or a robbery with a deadly weapon conviction and was being held at a pre-release center on Greenmount Avenue in downtown Baltimore.


Anthony Rackley is pictured in this booking photo courtesy of the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office. Oklahoma City police have arrested Rackley, who escaped from a Maryland prison more than 30 years ago, after he contacted them to say he was tired of paying off a business partner who threatened to expose him as a fugitive. (HANDOUT/Reuters)

The center has vocational programs designed to help inmates who are close to release dates ease back into society. Vernarelli said officials do not know how Rackley apparently escaped but said it’s possible he scaled a wall or simply walked away.

Maryland District Court records show that Rackley was charged with escape on July 11, 1980, but prosecutors dropped the charge in 1998. Officials could not say why, but it could have been part of a purge of old cases that authorities doubted would ever be solved.

Rackley’s three-decade odyssey unraveled when he picked up the phone and called police in Oklahoma, according to authorities there.

He complained of an alleged fraud and identified himself as Watson. But in a second call, he identified himself as Rackley, the police said.

After he “escaped from a Maryland prison,” the police report said, Rackley assumed another identity and began fundraising for a Lions Club in Oklahoma. The money he raised, according to the report, was divided among him, a second person and the club.

About 10 years ago, the police report said, Rackley told the second person that he was an escapee.

About a year after that, the report said, the second person allegedly asked for a larger cut of the money Rackley was getting, telling Rackley that he had no choice but to comply.

Then, the police report said, on Monday, the second person asked for a still larger share of the money that was going to Rackley.

He “again threatened to turn him in” if he did not go along, the report said.

At that point, according to the police report, Rackley “decided enough was enough.”

He “didn’t care if he was shipped back to prison,” the report said. “He didn’t want anyone blackmailing him.”

Oklahoma City police said Rackley was taken into custody without incident. He was then taken to the Oklahoma County jail and booked there.

Vernarelli said that authorities want Rackley back in Maryland but are still working out the logistics. “The extradition process is underway,” Vernarelli said. “We’re not sure who is responsible for physically getting him.” He said that officials have been “trying to figure out the paper files on this guy.”

Peter Hermann contributed to this report.

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