Captured fugitive returns to NC after 1973 escape

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A fugitive captured in Iowa after decades on the run is returning to North Carolina, where he escaped from prison in 1973.

North Carolina officers were transporting 69-year-old Ronald Carnes from a county jail in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a prison in Raleigh. They were scheduled to return Thursday, said Keith Acree, a North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesman.

Investigators arrested Carnes in Waterloo, Iowa, in April after facial recognition technology suggested that he applied for Iowa driver’s licenses under two identities. They soon learned Carnes was wanted for escaping from prison in Huntersville, North Carolina, in August 1973, when he was serving time for the 1970 armed robbery of a convenience store.

Federal prosecutors said Carnes stole the identities of two children who had died shortly after his escape and had lived for decades under their names. An indictment returned in July charged him with Social Security fraud, identity theft and possessing a firearm as a felon – charges that carried a potential of 34 years behind bars. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office said last week that it was dropping the case so Carnes could be returned to finish his earlier sentence in North Carolina.

Acree said Carnes will be immediately eligible for parole – as he was when he escaped – but his prospects for release are unclear. Carnes has nearly 10 years left on his sentence, and the agency may seek escape charges against him, Acree said.

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Photo courtesy: Linn County Jail

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