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Published: Wednesday, 5/20/2009

Fugitive mom released from prison, to put her past aside


PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Susan LeFevre's first prison stretch 33 years ago was so scary that she decided to escape.

Now, more than a year after her recapture, the woman who changed her life to become a suburban mom in California is free again - and this time her departure was legal.

"It's been very traumatic. I didn't think I'd make it at times," LeFevre, 54, said of her second term behind bars, describing prison as a "very tragic" place.

She was released yesterday from the Huron Valley prison south of Ann Arbor and rode away in a car, a more comfortable departure than in 1976 when she climbed a fence at another prison to escape a 10-year sentence for a heroin deal.

LeFevre was living in the San Diego area under the name Marie Walsh when a tip led to her arrest in April, 2008. Even her husband, Alan Walsh, didn't know about her criminal past.

A judge in September placed her on probation for the escape. Separately, the Michigan Parole Board voted in January to release her from prison on the drug sentence, saying she had led a productive and crime-free life in California.

But the board made her wait until yesterday because of misconduct in prison. Her record has been clean the past four months.

Standing in front of microphones, LeFevre thanked family and friends for their support and said: "I'm just delighted this nightmare is over."

In prison, humor and conversation among inmates are a cover for a harsh reality, LeFevre said. "There is a real suffering from being detached from the world. I hope there's a lot more done for rehabilitation," she said.

Her husband, a waste executive in southern California, called it a "great day."

The mother of three said she was "very anxious to resume my life and go back to being Marie." She said she would use that name again when her plane crosses the California state line.

In 1976, LeFevre had served about 14 months of a 10-year sentence for a heroin sale when she escaped. She expressed regret to a Wayne County judge last fall and said it was a "terrible thing to do." LeFevre said she was just 21 and frightened by other inmates.

When she returns to California, LeFevre will be on parole for the drug crime until May, 2013. She can't drink alcohol, possess firearms, or associate with felons.

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