A dying mother's last wish led the FBI to her fugitive son that had eluded capture for 36 years.
After multiple name changes, two prison escapes and FBI searches through the United States and Canada, William Walter Asher III was found in Salida, Calif., years after his mother used a secret phone number to contact her son before she died.
"After 36 years of looking over his shoulder, William Walter Asher III, now 66 years old, is finally back where he belongs—in prison," said a FBI statement.
Asher was 20 in 1966 when he and three others robbed robbed a San Francisco bar in which the bartender was shot and then beaten to death.
Shortly after the robbery, Asher fled to Chicago but was captured the next year by the FBI. He was returned to California where hew was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Eight years into his sentence, a woman helped him escape from prison, according to the FBI. Investigators believed he was in the Northwest Territories of Canada and near Alaska, but could not find him.
"Investigators later determined Asher had assumed the name David Donald McFee, worked as a long-haul truck driver, married, and raised a family," said the FBI report. He eventually separated from his wife, but when Canadian authorities and FBI agents interviewed her, she could not help them locate Asher.
Years later, one of Asher's daughters contacted the FBI for information about her father's whereabouts, but the investigators had hit a dead end.
"Although the trail was cold over the years, investigators never gave up their hunt for Asher and recently got the break they needed," according to the FBI news release.
In 2005, Asher's ailing mother Mable Welch "asked various family members to assist her in using the 'secret' number to call 'Billy,'" said the FBI report. Using this information, the FBI collected phone records from the people believed to have helped Welch contact her son.
Investigators discovered that two days before Welch's death, two phone calls were made to a residence in Salida, Calif., owned by a Garry Donald Webb. The FBI report said that Webb's driver's license image "appeared to resemble an older, thinner Asher."
The FBI believed they had their man, but they had to be sure.
"You want to go out and act on it right away, but you have to be sure of what you're going to do," FBI agent Daniel Rodriguez who helped arrest Asher told ABC's Sacramento affiliate KXTV.
They compared Asher's fingerprint card to Webb's and found they had a match.
On Friday morning, the FBI had Asher's house under surveillance as well as the trucking company where Gary Donald Webb allegedly worked. When a man that looked like Asher exited the house, investigators moved in. After some discussion, the FBI said "Asher admitted his true identity."
Officials say it appears that a woman who has been living with Asher for at least 10 years had no idea who he really was.
"She was really surprised. She had no idea the person she had been living with for the past 27 years was somebody completely different," Rodriguez told KXTV.
Asher was arrested "without incident" by a team made up of FBI agents, Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputies and a parole agent from the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.
He is currently being held in the Sierra Conservation Center is Jamestown and could face new charges as well as life in prison, according to the Associated Press.