A Bold Life on the Lam Ends in Quiet Surrender

Willie C. Parker, 81, has spent two decades in Clinton, N.C., where he was found last week.
Willie C. Parker, 81, has spent two decades in Clinton, N.C., where he was found last week. (By Paul Woolverton -- Associated Press)
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By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 29, 2008

When the law caught up with Willie Carroll Parker after nearly 43 years, he didn't put up a fight.

It was 1:30 in the afternoon Feb. 20, and he was relaxing in the back bedroom of a house he has shared with a buddy in North Carolina since leaving his wife six months ago.

When deputies from the U.S. Marshals Service surrounded the white clapboard house, Parker had just finished his lunch. He was relaxing in bed in a shirt and skivvies, watching television. A long gun was propped next to the headboard.

"Are you Mr. Willie Carroll Parker?" Deputy Brandon Taylor asked as other deputies flooded the house.

"I am," Parker responded.

Taylor had a warrant for Parker's arrest. "He was very cooperative," Taylor said. "I guess he knew his time was up."

At 81, Parker is considered Maryland's oldest living fugitive -- he has been on the lam since 1965, when he escaped from an Eastern Shore prison where he was serving time for robbery, officials say.

Now, he's in trouble again. His arrest in connection with that escape was part of a Maryland corrections department operation to apprehend fugitives, officials said.

After spending a week in jail in North Carolina, Parker was released on bail yesterday pending a hearing next week to determine whether he will be extradited to Maryland.

Parker, a sickly man who can barely walk, let alone run, admits that he took off four decades ago. He spent years on the run, surviving on odd jobs and the kindness of pretty women. But he stopped all that after a judge told him that Maryland no longer wanted him, he said.

Since then, he said, he has been a changed man, living out in the open. "I ain't been running from nobody."

At the time of his arrest last week, Parker had been a fixture for about 20 years in and around Clinton, N.C., a farming town of fewer than 10,000 people about 60 miles south of Raleigh.

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