David Thomas McBride, a Virginia prisoner who fled to Sweden in 1975 only to be caught almost by chance at Kennedy International Airport last May, was released on parole from the Powhatan Correctional Center early yesterday morning.
His release came several weeks after Gov. Charles S. Robb, acting on reports of the escapee's "exemplary" behavior, reduced McBride's 25-year prison sentence to 10 years, making him eligible for parole.
McBride, 34, was greeted at the prison gates by his parents, his Swedish-born wife and their 2-year-old son. They headed home to Lynchburg for his first night as a legitimately free man since 1970, when at age 21 he was arrested for selling LSD worth $200.
In a telephone interview yesterday, McBride said his plans were still vague. He said he had not wanted any welcome-home parties after his release. "In prison, the noise is constant," he said. "Just to be quiet is the biggest dream I have right now."
Twelve years ago, McBride was convicted in a trial that was a local sensation in Bedford County. He was first given a 50-year sentence by the jury. The judge, finding that excessive, halved the sentence to 25 years.
After 3 1/2 years in state prison, McBride, divorced from his first wife and despairing of an early release, took advantage of a furlough at his parents' home to set off for Sweden. There, he remarried, set up a small boat-building firm in Stockholm and became active in a Swedish Protestant church.
McBride was planning a life as a missionary when he was arrested while changing planes in New York. Now, McBride said, he plans to meet in Washington next week with representatives of the Prison Fellowship, a group involved in prison reform and missionary work among inmates.
Freedom "feels better all the time," he said, several hours after he stepped out into the early morning fog. "After being locked up there, coming out is like being on a different planet . . . Right now, I expect to live day to day for the next five weeks."