SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — After 36 years on the run, a felon convicted of robbing and killing a San Francisco bartender who escaped custody in 1975 has been arrested. A deathbed call from his mother eventually led to his capture.
FBI, Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies and a state parole agent arrested 66-year-old William Walter Asher on Friday at his home in Salida (Stanislaus County), where he had been living under the name Garry Donald Webb.
According to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Asher was sentenced to seven years to life in prison for robbing a San Francisco bar during which a bartender was shot and beaten to death in 1966. Asher was 20 at the time.
Asher was captured in Chicago and then tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1975, with the help of a female accomplice from the outside, Asher escaped from Growlersburg Conservation Camp #33, an inmate fire camp located outside Georgetown in El Dorado County.
During his years on the run, the FBI tracked him to Canada and Alaska where agents later learned he had assumed the name David Donald Mcfee, raised a family and worked as a long haul trucker.
He eventually split from his wife, but she was unable to give the FBI any information on his whereabouts.
The FBI said it recently got the break it needed when it learned Asher’s mother, Mabel Welch, called her son from her deathbed back in 2005 using a “secret” number with the help of various family members.
After checking phone records, the FBI pinpointed two calls made to a home in Salida where a Garry Donald Webb lived. Investigators then compared Webb’s California driver’s license photo and fingerprint with Asher’s and got a match.
On Friday, agents approached Asher as he left the Salida home and he eventually admitted his true identity.
He was living with a woman who had been with him for more than 10 years but didn’t know about his fugitive status.
Asher was being held at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown. He could face new charges related to his escape and could spend the rest of his life in prison, authorities said.
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