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On the Run

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Bobby Irwin, fugitive caught after 17 years

How many years does it take to right a wrong?  What would you do if you thought your life was in danger?

These are questions being asked this week by the wife of a Raleigh man who was arrested on charges that he violated his probation in Arizona.  Bobby Irwin was convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing a man in 1989 and sentenced to five years probation.  Authorities say he skipped out on his probation in 1992, changed his identity, and eventually moved to North Carolina.   At issue--investigators say Irwin killed a white supremacist who had previously attacked and robbed him and he was in fear of his life when he fled.

Irwin's wife of fifteen years knew nothing about her husband's past until he was arrested by US Marshals Monday.  But after hearing details of the back-story, she says she is inclined to support him.  She says for seventeen years he has lived a good life as a devoted husband, a dedicated professional in the computer industry, and a devout member of the Greek Orthodox Church who sang in the choir and shared his love of music with others.

We've seen it before-probation violators that the state has simply lost track of, probation violators who continue to offend, probation violators who start with petty crimes and end with violence.   The men accused of killing UNC student body president Eve Carson in March 2008 both fell through the cracks of North Carolina's probation system.

But what about the person who lives a clean life after committing the crime?  What do we do with this person?   Irwin who changed his name to Robert LaRoche had  one scrape with the law in New Mexico in 1999 when he was suspected of drinking and driving.  Other than that, there is no indication that the man friends describe as "peaceful," "quiet" and "reserved," was anything but lawful.

Irwin has waived extradition and will be sent back to Arizona to face the charge there.  His wife hopes that the judge who ultimately hears the case will take everything into consideration.  While everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, maybe not all laws should be applied equally to all people.


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