After 35 Years on the Lam, Fugitive Captured

Police arrested convicted murderer and prison escapee Linda Darby on Friday.

ByABC News via logo
February 18, 2009, 11:33 AM

Oct. 17, 2007 — -- For the last 35 years Linda Joe McElroy lived a quiet and unassuming life in Pulaski, Tenn. So neighbors were shocked to learn the grandmother who baby-sat their children and cleaned their homes was a convicted murderer who had escaped from prison decades earlier.

"I was flabbergasted because I just didn't believe she done that," said McElroy's neighbor Martha Ann Slater. "She just don't seem like that type of person."

But police said the 64-year-old, whose real name is Linda Darby, hid a secret. Darby was a fugitive sentenced to life in prison in Indiana for murdering her husband in 1970.

The man was shot to death and his body set ablaze.

After her conviction in the case, Darby served two years behind bars before she escaped from Indiana Women's Prison in March 1972 by going over a barbed-wire fence. She then moved to Tennessee where she married, had two children and started a new life complete with a new name.

At least one expert said it is not difficult to begin a new life while on the lam.

"It's actually quite easy to be absorbed if they cut all ties from their previous life, which appears to be the case in this situation," said ABC News consultant and former FBI agent Brad Garrett.

Police credit Darby's arrest to Indiana's recently formed fugitive task force. Though Darby had no driver's license, authorities tracked her to Tennessee, where her confession surprised local police.

"I've known of her the last 16 years. She's lived the life of a real good citizen," said Pulaski Police Capt. John Dickey.

Darby's husband and stunned relatives have pleaded for mercy and leniency in her case.

"Let her out and go home to her family," said her tearful cousin Tina McElroy.

While Darby awaits extradition to Indiana to serve out the rest of her sentence, a county jail holds her, according to The Associated Press. Though she has waived her right to an extradition hearing, Darby has maintained her innocence.

"I didn't mean to mislead anybody, but I didn't want to pay for someone else's crime," she said.