Daughter Knew of Mother's Prison Past

The daughter of a recently captured Michigan fugitive who had been living in Tennessee for 32 years says she has known of her mother's past for as long as she can remember.

"I've known my whole life," Amanda Ross, 29, said of her mother's history. "She's my best friend."

Her mother, Rebecca Ross, now 57, escaped from Michigan's Huron Valley Center Correctional Facility -- which has since been closed -- in 1976. She was serving a sentence of one to 15 years for unarmed assault with intent to commit armed robbery in Wayne County.

After serving only eight months of her sentence, Rebecca Ross hopped the prison fence sometime on August 23, but was not counted missing until late that evening, according to 1976 police reports. She bought enough time to make her way to Tennessee, where she started life anew.

"She wasn't hiding out," Ross told ABCNews.com. "She didn't change her Social Security number ... or anything. If they wanted to find her they could have."

She did, however, change her last name to Ross when she married Larry Ross, Amanda's father, in 1978.

He never knew of his wife's colorful past, said daughter Amanda, adding that the couple, who haven't lived together in years, have been in the process of a lengthy four-year divorce. Calls to Larry Ross' residence in Camden, Tenn., were not returned.

"She's an accomplished woman with four different degrees and her own business -- a salon," Amanda Ross said of her mother.

She didn't dispute her mother's guilt, but argued that the only reason she served time was because Rebecca Ross' parents -- who disowned her after two early teen pregnancies -- refused to pay for an attorney in the robbery trial that resulted in her conviction.

"The other people that got in trouble had family support and attorneys," the younger Ross said. "My mom had a court appointed attorney, who she saw twice before she went to court."

Meanwhile, Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said, "We never give up on escapees. We'll always continue to pursue them."

The Michigan Department of Corrections handed information on Rebecca Ross to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office a few weeks ago. An investigation followed and U.S. Marshals and local police officers captured Rebecca Ross in her Camden, Tenn., home on Friday evening. Ross could not be reached at the Camden jail, where she is being held until her extradition. And ABCNews.com was unable to determine if she has a lawyer.

Although Amanda and Rebecca Ross were living together and the daughter knew of her mother's history, the younger Ross hasn't been implicated in any way.

It is unclear what prompted state corrections officials to act, but Marlan said that there have been other fugitives captured recently. Not commenting specifically on Ross' case, he told ABCNews.com that "some were found from anonymous tips, sometimes technology has advanced to where we can find these escapees."

Rebecca Ross will be extradited to Michigan, where authorities will recalculate her prison sentence and prosecutors will decide whether to pursue further criminal charges for the prison escape, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

On the day of the original crime in 1975, Ross accompanied two men into a store, where one tied up the clerk and held a knife to her throat while the others stole cash and jewelry, according to police reports.

Still, her daughter hopes she'll be released. "Nowadays, if a person committed a similar crime they would not even go to jail," she said.

But Ross signed a statement admitting to entering the facility, Marlan said. And contrary to her daughter's reasoning, he added, charges involving robbery with a weapon are always prosecuted.

Rebecca Ross signed a statement admitting to entering the facility, Marlan said, and "a charge like intent to rob while armed – a lesser armed robbery – almost always results in a prison sentence."

Ross wasn't the only female prisoner to escape in the 1970s. "Minimum security camps, where the majority of female prisoners were housed, didn't have fences with razor wire," Marlan said. "It was simply a fence that anyone could jump -- and many of them did."

Susan LeFevre, who was serving time for selling heroin to an undercover cop, escaped from the same facility one year before Rebecca Ross. The 1970s charges would not result in such a harsh sentence today, Marlan said. But that seemed to have no bearing in her case because prosecutors charged her for the escape after she was captured, adding as many as five years to the 10-to-20-year sentence.

Marlan said that because LeFevre faced a possible five-year sentence for her escape and her charges were less severe than Ross', it is likely that Ross will also face up to an additional five years after completing her initial 15-year sentence.