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Sat February 15, 2014

Fugitive Finally Captured: 'The Eyes Gave Her Away'

Originally published on Sat February 15, 2014 6:18 pm

Earlier this winter, Lt. Charles Levens from the Michigan Department of Corrections was stuck at work.

"Well, that day was a bad snow day," he says. "We were not working too much in the field. The roads were horrible, the temperatures were below zero and it was a good day to work on some cold cases."

Cooped up in his office, he pulled out an old file on a woman named Judy Lynn Hayman. She was an escapee who broke out of a Michigan prison in 1977.

"Our department policy requires that any of our cold cases or escapee cases from the '60s and '70s be investigated at least once a year to see if we can follow up or come up with any new leads," Levens says.

'Jackpot'

Hayman had been arrested for attempting to steal clothes at a Detroit department store. She served only half her sentence before vanishing 37 years ago.

Levens sent her fingerprints off to the FBI's special processing unit. "Two weeks later, we hit the jackpot," he says.

Hayman's prints matched those of a 60-year-old woman who had once been arrested on drug charges back in 1980. She was living across the country in San Diego.

When police arrived at her apartment last week, they met a woman who said her name was Jamie Lewis. She even provided documentation to prove her identity. But Lt. Kevin Mayer from the San Diego Police Department says the officers weren't convinced.

"One of the officers had a picture of Ms. Hayman from 1977. And he was looking at that picture and compared it to the woman who was identifying herself as Jamie Lewis. And what he told me was that the eyes gave her away," Mayer says. "There was something distinctive about her eyes that led him to believe that this was, in fact, the wanted fugitive."

She was taken in for questioning and later admitted her true identity; she was indeed Judy Lynn Hayman. The matter now rests with the San Diego police.

Another Cold Case, Coincidentally Cracked

As unique as this case is, it brings on a strong sense of déjà vu for Levens. Just six years ago, he was investigating a different cold case on a woman named Susan LeFevre. She was sentenced to prison for a heroin deal and escaped in 1976.

"Kind of the same situation," he says. "The roads were bad and snowy, so I decided to work on a cold case and I started looking through her old prison files and some of the other files that other investigators had worked up on her over the years. I found a couple relatives that still lived in the Saginaw area here in Michigan."

After a string of interviews and an anonymous tip, Levens found LeFevre in 2008. She also happened to take up residence in San Diego and lived under the name Marie Walsh.

She was in her yard gardening when police took her back into custody. She spent 13 months in prison before returning to San Diego.

"Kind of a coincidence that there was another here in San Diego from their state," Mayer says. "Perhaps it's the weather."

Chasing down cold cases, even decades later, is all just part of his job, Levens says. He's already moved on to the next stack of cases.

"With the Michigan Department of Corrections here, our main function is to carry out the sentences of the court. We're bound by law to keep searching for these folks until we capture them and take them into custody so they can finish out their original sentence," Levens says. "I can assure you, if you're one of those people that are still out there from the '60s and '70s, we're still looking for you."

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Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

If you're just joining us, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

Meet Lt. Charles Levens, from the Michigan Department of Corrections. Like many people, he spent a lot of time working indoors this winter. One day last December was especially brutal.

LT. CHARLES LEVENS: Well, that day was a bad snow day. We were not working too much in the field. The roads were horrible, the temperatures were below zero, and it was a good day to work on some cold cases.

RATH: And that's where our next story begins. Confined to his office, Lieutenant Levens pulled out an old file on a woman named Judy Lynn Hayman, an escapee who broke out of a Michigan prison back in 1977.

LEVENS: Our department policy requires that any of our cold cases or escapee cases from the '60s and '70s be investigated at least once a year to see if we can follow up or come up with any new leads, anything we can try to do to solve the case and get them back in the custody.

RATH: Hayman had been arrested for shoplifting in a store in Detroit. She served only half her sentence before vanishing 37 years ago. Lieutenant Levens sent her fingerprints off to the FBI's special processing unit.

LEVENS: And two weeks later, hit the jackpot.

RATH: The fingerprints matched those of a 60-year-old woman who was once arrested on drug charges in 1980. She was now living across the country in San Diego. Police arrived at her apartment last week and met a woman who said her name was Jamie Lewis. She even had documents to prove her identity. Lieutenant Kevin Mayer from the San Diego Police Department says the officers were suspicious.

LT. KEVIN MAYER: One of the officers, he had a picture of Ms. Hayman from 1977. And he was looking at that picture and compared it to the woman who was identifying herself as Jamie Lewis. And what he told me was the eyes gave her away. There was something distinctive about her eyes that led him to believe that this was, in fact, the wanted fugitive.

RATH: Ah, the eyes. She was taken in for questioning and later admitted her true identity. The woman living as Jamie Lewis was Judy Lynn Hayman, fugitive. The matter now rests with the San Diego police.

RATH: As unique as this case is, it brings on a strong sense of deja vu for Lieutenant Levens. Just six years ago, he was investigating a different cold case - Susan LeFevre. Sent to prison for a heroin deal, she escaped in 1976.

LEVENS: Kind of the same situation. The roads were bad and snowy, so I decided to work on a cold case and I started looking through her old prison files and the other files that other investigators had worked up on her over the years. And I found a couple relatives that still lived in the Saginaw area here in Michigan.

RATH: After a string of interviews and an anonymous tip, Levens found LeFevre in 2008 also living in San Diego under the name Marie Walsh. After her release from prison, LeFevre appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2011, recounting her life as a wanted fugitive.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW")

OPRAH WINFREY: After 10 years, 20 years, are you always looking over your shoulder?

SUSAN LEFEVRE: It was always, how will this story end? Will I die and this will be a deathbed thing to my kids? Will it be that I am having a dinner party and the SWAT team comes in and accidentally shoots one of my kids that screams from upstairs or something? I never knew.

RATH: She told Oprah that she was in her yard gardening when police took her back into custody. She spent 13 months in prison before returning to San Diego. Again, Lieutenant Kevin Mayer.

MAYER: Kind of a coincidence that there was another here in San Diego from their state. Perhaps it's the weather.

RATH: Lieutenant Levens isn't done. And he has this to add.

LEVENS: I can assure you, if you're one of those people that are still out there from the '60s and '70s, we're still looking for you.

RATH: So if you're on the lam from a Michigan prison listening to this right now, there's only one thing you can do: Pray for good weather. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.