SAN DIEGO — A Michigan officer’s decision to look through old files on fugitives led investigators to a woman who escaped from a Michigan prison 37 years ago and was living in San Diego, authorities said Wednesday.
Judy Lynn Hayman, 60, will be returned to Michigan to complete her sentence for attempted larceny.
“We can’t just write it off,” said Russ Marlan, spokesman for the Michigan Corrections Department. “We don’t have the ability to say, ‘It’s been a long time. You’re free to go.’”
It will be up to the state Parole Board to determine how long Hayman will be imprisoned. She had served eight months of an 18- to 24-month sentence for attempting to steal clothes from a Detroit-area store. She could face additional time for escaping.
Hayman’s capture wasn’t the result of an intense search. It happened mostly because of winter weather and an officer’s decision to blow the dust off old files.
Lt. Charles Levens of the Michigan Corrections Department pursues parole violators but recent severe weather had kept him in the office and off icy roads. He requested the fingerprint cards for all old escapees and sent them to the FBI.
Hayman’s fingerprints matched those of a woman who had been arrested in San Diego.
San Diego police on Monday went to an apartment in the city’s Hillcrest neighborhood, where a woman matching Hayman’s description 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 is being held in a San Diego County jail awaiting extradition to Michigan, where she escaped from the Ypsilanti prison in 1977, Mayer said. He did not know if she had retained an attorney, and no court date had been set.
It wasn’t immediately clear how long Hayman had been living in San Diego. She lived in a well-kept, nondescript building blocks from Balboa Park. 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.
Neighbors said Hayman lived for several years in the complex, where she went by the name Jamie and mostly kept to herself.
Theresa Padilla said she lived next door to Hayman for more than six years after they moved in around the same time.
She described her neighbor as a “quiet loner, but basically a nice person.” Padilla said Hayman spent most of her time indoors except when she walked her Chihuahua, Monty, who was old and had to be put down less than a year ago.
Hayman had photos of three sons on her wall, and at least one son visited her often, taking out the trash and doing other chores, Padilla said. “Her three boys seemed like they were raised well.”
Padilla said Hayman didn’t appear to be married or have a job. She said she and Hayman spoke infrequently but did share their experiences in battling cancer. Hayman also mentioned living in Detroit and was a fan of Michigan basketball teams.
Padilla was shocked to learn of her neighbor’s past after police swarmed the complex Monday.
“It don’t make sense, going after this lady for a petty little thing,” she said. “They need to go after the molesters, the killers, those who hurt little babies, not someone who stole something when she was 23.”
Hayman’s 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. She wrote a book called “A Tale of Two Lives” about her ordeal.
White reported from Detroit.