A Life on the Lam

Maryland's Oldest Fugitive Bides Time As State Officials Prepare Extradition Case

By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 19, 2008

Maryland's oldest living fugitive, Willie Carroll Parker, has spent the past two months awaiting his fate. He found out in court yesterday that he'll have to wait even longer.

Captured Feb. 20 at his Clinton, N.C., home by the FBI with a warrant charging him from absconding from a Maryland prison in 1965, Parker has spent each day since waiting for his day in court. Eighty-one and in frail health, he doesn't want to spend what time he has left worrying about what will become of him.

"Either they are going to lock me up or leave me alone. Either way, I want it done. I'm ready to get this finished," he said yesterday as he headed into court, where a judge gave Maryland prosecutors 30 more days to prepare the extradition case.

Law enforcement officials involved in the case acknowledge that the effort to get Parker back to Maryland has been somewhat protracted. The prison he escaped from no longer exists. The people who prosecuted him no longer work in the system. Many of the records on his case have been destroyed or cannot be found, said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), whose agency is gathering the

extradition-related documents.

"It's making the process slow," she said.

Too slow, said Parker, who fretted yesterday when the judge also denied his request to travel to New York to visit his ailing, 90-year-old sister. His brother Perlie lives near Baltimore. Though he was a frequent traveler up and down Interstate 95 before his arrest, visiting his sister and Perlie several times a year, he has abided by a condition of his bond and stayed put in Clinton.

Gansler's office will forward case documents to the secretary of state for authentication, Guillory said. The decision to extradite will be made by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

If returned to Maryland, a judge will determine whether Parker goes back to jail.

"I think they're going to leave me alone because I've been away from Maryland for so long," Parker said. "I think I proved to them that I

haven't been running from anybody."

After spending a week in jail in February, where deputies worked to make sure he was comfortable and received his medications and meals on time, Parker was released on bond. Partially paralyzed from a stroke, he has entertained himself by watching television and catching up with relatives and friends.

During his life on the lam, he headed back to North Carolina in the 1980s to reconnect with his family in the area. He was born not far from where he now lives. He became a Marylander after leaving the Navy. He was working odd jobs in Baltimore when he was arrested and convicted of armed robbery in 1953. A decade later he was released on parole, but it was revoked in 1964 after he got mixed up with some men involved with five acres of marijuana.

He was looking at 29 long ones when he escaped. He ended up in Seattle in the late 1960s, where "negative associations" again brought him down, Parker said. He did a year in connection with a store robbery. A judge found out that Maryland had a fugitive hold on him but let him go after Maryland officials told him they were not interested in having him extradited, Parker said.

He found his way back home, got a job, got married and bought a house using his real name, Social Security number and other identifying information.

He thought he was a free man until the FBI came, Parker said. "If anyone had been trying to find me, they could have got me -- easy," he said. "I ain't been hiding from nobody."

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