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Florida prison escapee arrested in Spring Lake

Posted February 13, 2012
Updated February 14, 2012

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— A man who escaped from a prison bus in Florida more than 30 years ago lived under an assumed name in Fayetteville until he was arrested last week in Harnett County.

Gerald Balam, 62, was serving a 15-year sentence for burglary, robbery, carrying a concealed weapon and grand theft when he escaped from a work detail in November 1980, authorities said.

Florida Department of Corrections officials said Balam and other prisoners were transferring between prison buses in Collier County in southwest Florida, and he slipped out as the inmates boarded the bus. The inmates weren't counted as they left the first bus, giving Balam time to escape before prison officials noticed he was gone.

A Harnett County deputy arrested Balam last Thursday afternoon during a traffic stop along West Northpoint Road in Spring Lake. The deputy checked Balam's driver's license, which included his real name and a fake birth date, in a national crime database and found a fugitive warrant out of Florida for a man of the same name, authorities said.

Further investigation showed that Balam was the man Florida authorities were seeking, authorities said.

Thirty years on run ends for Florida escapee Thirty years on run ends for Florida escapee

An arrest warrant lists Balam's address as 702 Amethyst Court in Fayetteville and noted he also has gone by the names of Willie Lee Jackson, William Ellis and David James.

It's unclear whether Balam worked in the area, has relatives here or how long he has lived in Fayetteville.

Neighbors in the Tiffany Pines subdivision said they didn't know Balam, although one said he had lived in the neighborhood for seven or eight months.

Balam was being held Monday in the Harnett County jail under a $200,000 bond, awaiting extradition to Florida.

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  • Tarheel born Feb 14, 2012

    "You can run but you can't hide."

  • Fuquay Resident Feb 13, 2012

    Way to go HCSO!!