State News

81-Year-Old Makes Unlikely Fugitive From Justice

Posted February 29, 2008 10:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 29, 2008 6:18 p.m. EST

— Willie Parker cut an unlikely figures as Maryland's oldest wanted fugitive when he walked slowly out of a Samspon County jail, free on bond while awaiting possible extradition to answer for a prison escape 43 years ago.

Parker walked with a cane and drove a Nissan minivan. He wore cap saying, 'Retired – No Clock, No Phone, No Money, No Worries.'

The 81-year-old suffers from a litany of health problems: high blood pressure, liver failure, diabetes, hepatitis and a stroke 14 years ago. "You name it, I got it," he said.

"I feel good to be out," an ailing Willie Parker said in a telephone interview from his home.

A judge allowed Parker to post a secured $25,000 bond, and he left the Sampson County Detention Center Thursday afternoon, said the jail administrator, Maj. Kemely Pickett.

"He was a pretty happy guy," Pickett said. "He thanked all of us, because we treated him good."

On Feb. 20, U.S. marshals arrested Parker for walking away from Maryland's Eastern Correctional Camp in 1965 after serving about 10 years of a 40-year sentence for robbery with a deadly weapon.

Parker can not leave Samspon County while Maryland state attorney general's office reviews the case to decide whether or not to extradite him. Maryland has 90 days from Parker's arrest to decide, defense lawyer Andrew Jackson said.

It was unusual for a judge to grant bond in extradition cases, Jackson said.

So far, North Carolina has not received an extradition request, said Seth Effron, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Easley.

"I believe he belongs at home," Jackson said. "The judge recognized he is not a flight risk because of his health. Until the governor's warrant is issued, he will be able to stay at home."

Three federal marshals knocked on the door of the white clapboard house Parker shared with a friend in the early morning Feb. 20. The two men also shared a home health nurse, Parker said.

“I was in bed asleep,” he said. “I look up, and there are three people coming through the door and said, ‘You owe Maryland 29 years.’ I said, 'What the hell you talking about?'”

"They said, 'We came to get you, and I said, 'Well, I'm here,'" Parker added. "I called my nurse. She helped me get dressed."

After he was arrested several times around the country using different identities, Parker said he gave up on trying to run and hide.
Maryland authorities said they were not interested in him after he served a prison sentence in Washington state in the 1970s, Parker claimed.

"For all those years, I didn't do nothing to nobody," he said. "I didn't try to get into any trouble. Maybe that's why they didn't catch me."

The Duplin County native got a driver's license and held down several jobs around Sampson County. He voted and collected veterans' and Social Security benefits.

Maryland authorities said they contacted U.S. Marshals when they discovered Parker's driving records in North Carolina while reviewing old fugitive cases. Officials were seeking to clear more than 80 outstanding warrants.

Parker, however, thinks the reason he ended up behind bars is more personal. "I think my wife had something to do with it," he said, adding that he is going through a messy divorce.

Parker said he has accepted that he will go back to prison if that is what authorities decide.

"What have I got to lose?" he asked.