Police say Judy Lynn Hayman's luck ran out after 37 years on the run not because of an intense manhunt but rather two disparate factors: bad weather that kept an investigator at his desk and her distinctive eyes that had never changed since her mug shot was taken.
San Diego police arrested the 60-year-old woman Monday at her San Diego apartment after receiving a mug shot from Michigan, where an officer staying off icy roads sent fingerprint cards for all old escapees to the FBI.
Lt. Charles Levens of the Michigan Corrections Department sent the fingerprint cards to the FBI and said many police agencies had fingerprints that matched Hayman's but under different names. He gave the information to one of his investigators, Tim Hardville, who tracked her down in San Diego.
Authorities had been searching for Hayman since she escaped from Ypsilanti prison in 1977. Hayman served eight months of an 18- to 24-month sentence for attempting to steal clothes from a Detroit-area store.
'If you're a fugitive, you have an obligation to pay your debt to society.' - Lt. Charles Levens, Michigan Corrections Department
San Diego police say Hayman identified herself as Jamie Lewis and produced government documents with the name. 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," San Diego police Lt. Kevin Mayer said. "The eyes in the picture matched the eyes of this woman."
She acknowledged being Hayman after police took her in, Mayer said.
It wasn't immediately clear how long Hayman had been in San Diego. But neighbours at her well-kept, nondescript apartment complex blocks from Balboa Park said she lived in the building for almost seven years.
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.
Neighbours say the woman they know as Jamie Lewis kept to herself, not speaking of her past.
Hayman is being held in a San Diego County jail awaiting extradition to Michigan and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
Michigan authorities want her returned to the state to complete her sentence for attempted larceny. She also could face a separate criminal charge for the escape.
Cancer survivor, mom to 3 sons
"I said, `Tim, you're going to get your girl here,"' Levens said. "There are two ways to get off our list: a death certificate or a (live) body. It's what the state pays us to do. ... If you're a fugitive, you have an obligation to pay your debt to society."
Hayman, using aliases, apparently had been arrested and fingerprinted in the past and the San Diego police "were familiar with her," said Michigan Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan.
San Diego Lt. Mayer declined to give further details about the case, including whether Hayman had prior arrests or contact with police in California.
Theresa Padilla said she lived next door to Hayman for more than six years and described her 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 often, taking out her 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 being a fan of Michigan basketball teams.
All fugitives must be pursued, official says
Padilla was shocked to learn of her neighbour'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."
Marlan said all fugitives must be pursued.
"We can't just write it off," the Michigan corrections spokesman said. "We don't have the ability to say, `It's been a long time. You're free to go."'
San Diego district attorney's office spokesman Steve Walker said Hayman is scheduled for her first hearing Thursday morning. If she doesn't fight her extradition, she will be sent immediately to Michigan. If she does contest it, another hearing will be held the following day.
It will be up to the state Parole Board to determine how long Hayman will be imprisoned.