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Killer Who Said He Couldn’t Be Caught Is Arrested

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A murderer who escaped from Folsom Prison in 1984 and later bragged on national TV that he would never be caught was arrested in London on Thursday, the FBI announced.

Stephen Leslie Wilson, who admitted killing his father-in-law in Inyo County in 1979, was captured on a London street after federal agents followed the fugitive’s new common-law wife from Florida to his London hostel.

Wilson, 47, was a much-wanted man by the FBI, in part because of his penchant for flaunting his escape. While he was on the run, he sent Christmas greetings to the warden at Folsom Prison.

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He contacted the FBI and television reporters saying that the murder was justified and that he was too smart to be caught. “I work every day at not being caught,” he boasted to one FBI agent.

At one point, Wilson even videotaped himself being interviewed on the telephone and sent off the tape so it could be aired on the tabloid television show “Inside Edition.”

“It became a real challenge because we knew we would have to catch him without him committing another crime,” said FBI Special Agent Bill Barcklay, who has been working on the case since the day Wilson escaped. “He did not leave a trail for us.”

Wilson was a model prisoner at Folsom who figured out delivery schedules and escaped by slipping into a truck. It was the first escape from Folsom in 15 years.

He fled Florida in 1990 after learning that his story was to be aired on the television show “America’s Most Wanted.” He later called the FBI to complain about its surveillance of his common-law wife, Laurie Fitch.

In the end, Wilson apparently got careless. Earlier this week, FBI agents followed as Fitch flew to London and met Wilson. Agents from New Scotland Yard closed in as the couple left his hostel.

Federal authorities expect to begin extradition proceedings today and bring Wilson back to California. When he arrives he will find at least one change: the new Pelican Bay maximum security prison in Crescent City has been built during his absence.

A state-of-the-art penitentiary for the state’s most violent criminals, it was designed specifically to keep people like Wilson inside.


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