ALDERSON, W.VA., DEC. 26 -- Prison officials sought to learn what triggered Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme's escape after she rejected parole hearings and quietly served 12 years of her life sentence for trying to kill then-President Gerald R. Ford.

Authorities said today they were checking phone records to determine whether Fromme told friends before her escape that she had heard a rumor that her cult guru, mass killer Charles Manson, was dying of cancer and that she was desperate to see him. The rumor has been floating among Manson sympathizers.

"It's a possibility that she called them," said Maureen Atwood, associate warden of the Alderson Federal Correctional Institution. She said it will take about two days to check the records.

Fromme fled the federal prison for women Wednesday evening and was recaptured Friday about two miles from the prison in wooded, rugged country.

Warden Ron Burkhart talked with Fromme minutes after she was returned to Alderson, but he refused to divulge details of the conversation.

There was no immediate confirmation from prison officials in California on Manson's health. He is serving a life sentence in San Quentin prison for the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and eight others.

Fromme, 39, had continued to correspond with Manson since she was permitted to reestablish contact with him five years ago, prison officials said.

Fromme was under tight security today in the prison's infirmary, with a guard posted outside the door. U.S. marshals were expected to arrive within the next few days to interrogate her.

"When we interrogate her, we'll try to get information to bring charges of escape from a federal institution," said U.S. Marshal James P. Hickman.

Fromme aimed a gun at Ford on Sept. 5, 1975, but he escaped unharmed when a Secret Service agent grabbed her semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol.

In San Francisco 17 days later, Ford also escaped injury when Sara Jane Moore, a 45-year-old political activist, fired a revolver at him. She eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.

In 1979, Moore also escaped from the Alderson prison but was recaptured hours later about 25 miles away. She is now in a federal prison in Pleasanton, Calif.

"Getting out {of Alderson} isn't hard," Moore told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. But getting out of the area in the Appalachian hills is difficult, she said. "On foot, you have almost no chance."