SAN DIEGO — A woman who escaped from a Michigan prison nearly 37 years ago while serving time for attempted larceny was found living under an alias in San Diego, police said Tuesday.
Acting on a tip from the Michigan Department of Corrections, San Diego police went to an apartment on Monday in the Hillcrest neighborhood, where a woman matching the description of fugitive Judy Lynn Hayman answered the door.
She identified herself as Jamie Lewis and produced government documents with the name, San Diego police Lt. Kevin Mayer said. Officers, however, remained suspicious because of inconsistencies in her story and her resemblance to an old Michigan mug shot they were holding.
“Her eyes gave her away,” Mayer said. “The eyes in the picture matched the eyes of this woman.”
The officers took her to a police station, where she eventually acknowledged being Hayman, Mayer said.
Hayman, 60, was being held in a San Diego County jail awaiting extradition to Michigan, where she escaped from the Ypsilanti prison in 1977 while serving time for attempted larceny, Mayer said. He did not know if she had retained an attorney and no court date had been set.
When she escaped, Hayman was about halfway through a minimum sentence of 1 1/2 years for attempting to steal clothes from a Detroit-area store.
Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan said Tuesday she must be returned to prison to finish the sentence, which has a maximum term of two years. The state parole board typically determines whether an inmate can be released after serving the minimum.
“We can’t just write it off,” he said. “We don’t have the ability to say it’s been a long time, you’re free to go,” he said.
Authorities in Washtenaw County, Mich., where the prison is located, would decide whether additional charges related to the escape are filed, Marlan said.
It was not immediately clear how long the woman had been living in San Diego. Her 32-year-old son was visiting when police arrived, and officers said he appeared stunned by their questions.
“This seemed very much a surprise to him,” Mayer said.
He did not have the son’s name, and public listings for the residence under the name Jamie Lewis did not include a phone number.
Neighbors said Hayman had lived in the complex for several years and mostly kept to herself.
Neighbor Maria Lopez, 60, told the U-T San Diego newspaper that Hayman did not appear to work. She said people came by the house to do her laundry, and she had frequent visits from her son.
Mayer said he was impressed by the investigators’ ability to “put some dots together” and provide San Diego officers with the right address after nearly four decades.
“I commend them for their tenacity,” he said. “This is a very old case.”
The case is similar to that of Marie Walsh, who also escaped from a Michigan prison when she was known as Susan LeFevre.
Walsh had served 14 months of a 10-year prison sentence for a heroin deal when she fled in 1976. She was found living under an alias in San Diego, in 2008.
Walsh spent 13 more months in prison then returned to San Diego where she resumed her life with her husband of more than 20 years and wrote a book called “A Tale of Two Lives” about her ordeal.