May 21, 2018
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After 33 years on run, fugitive finally back in Maryland prison

By Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post

Anthony Rackley, the fugitive from Maryland who turned himself in to authorities in Oklahoma City after 33 years on the run, has been returned to the Maryland prison system.

Rackley, 62, was picked up late last week by state police and corrections officers, according to Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for Maryland’s corrections department.

Rackley, who was originally incarcerated at age 18 for armed robbery and then sent back to prison for a parole violation, slipped away from a pre-release program in Baltimore in 1980. He traveled around the country and eventually settled in Oklahoma, where he became a paid Lions Club fundraiser under the name Jack Watson.

In November, Rackley suddenly turned himself in, telling authorities that he was being extorted by another Lions Club member who knew he was a fugitive.

The allegations of extortion were investigated, but authorities declined to press charges. A prosecutor called the case a “he said, he said.”

Rackley’s story puzzled law enforcement officials, many of whom couldn’t remember an escapee just offering himself up for apprehension after so long away.

But he isn’t the longest on-the-run Maryland fugitive to be recaptured. That apparently was Willie Parker, found in 2008, at age 81, living in North Carolina after escaping 43 years earlier from a prison on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Parker eventually was paroled.

Rackley, who was locked up in the Oklahoma County jail while awaiting extradition, hopes for a similar resolution.

While in jail, besides telling his story by phone in multiple interviews to The Washington Post, Rackley reconnected with family members, including his sister, who hadn’t spoken to him in decades.

Maryland prison officials have been scrambling to piece together Rackley’s records, which predate current electronic systems.

Vernarelli said the Maryland Parole Commission would try to give Rackley a parole hearing within 90 days.

Rackley said he wants to return to Oklahoma City and continue his charitable work.

“I’ve never met better people,” he said. “I’ve never done better things. I’ve never had a better life.”


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