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Sentencing: Woman Who Fled Michigan Drug Sentence 32 Years Ago Caught in California, Faces 20 Years

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #534)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues

Susan LeFevre was a Michigan teenager when she was arrested in 1974 for selling relatively small amounts of heroin to an undercover officer. At the request of her conservative family, she pleaded guilty and hoped for mercy, but was instead sentenced to 20 years in prison despite having no previous record. With the help of family members, she bolted from prison in 1976 and fled to California, where she started a new life with a new identity.

Last week, thanks to an anonymous tip to the Michigan Department of Corrections, she was tracked down and arrested in San Diego, where she had lived a quiet upper middle-class life and raised three children with her husband of 23 years. Now, Michigan wants her back to do the rest of her sentence.

The case of LeFevre, now known as Marie Walsh, is putting the issues of crime and punishment and redemption and forgiveness, not to mention harsh drug sentencing, in the national spotlight. While the nation debates her fate, LeFevre sits in a California jail cell awaiting extradition to her home state.

"It's been a secret no one knew for so long, and now everyone knows," LeFevre told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday at Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, a San Diego suburb. "I hope there's some mercy."

There sure wasn't any mercy when she copped a plea in Michigan more than 30 years ago. She plea bargained in a bid for a lenient sentence, or even probation. Instead she was sentenced to the maximum 10 to 20 years. "I kept thinking it had to be a mistake. I was supposed to have probation," LeFevre said.

And it doesn't sound like Michigan is feeling any more forgiving now than it was back when Gerald Ford was president. "Just because she escaped and evaded capture for 30 years doesn't mean your prison sentence is negated," said Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan. She would have to do at least nine years to satisfy her sentence, he said.

That his wife has turned out to be a fugitive from justice means little to Alan Walsh, who never knew about LeFevre's secret past. "I've known my wife, Marie, for 23 years," he said in a statement. "She is a person of the highest integrity and compassion. During that time she's been nothing but a caring and wonderful wife and mother. She has raised three beautiful children and worked hard to build a good life for them, and has dedicated her life to their well-being. Her family is now threatened to be destroyed."

Barring a refusal by the state of California to extradite her back to Michigan, which is highly unlikely, LeFevre's only hope would appear to be a commutation of her sentence. Otherwise, she will become just one more drug war prisoner in Michigan's prisons overflowing with drug war prisoners.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Prison would serve no earthly good all the way around. But since we feel somebody has to pay, give her the same justice ex President Nixon got for commiting a felony, charge her then pardon her immediatly with no futher consequences.

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 2:38pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I had this discussion with my wife... It would be wrong to just let it slide completely. However, a pardon by the Governor would be perfectly legal and she is the ideal candidate.

If pigs like Scooter Libby get pardons, so should she.

Wed, 07/16/2008 - 12:37am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I don't know about other states, but I hate Michigan!

For the last 17 years, the Secretary of State has been claiming I am an alcoholic, and refuse to give my license back.

Michigan is hungry for prisoners to be locked up, they don't care about what they do that ruins the capacity of a human being, with all their miscarriages involving the drug war, and I consider it all HATE crimes by them.

I'm really beginning to think America is a worthless country, and I am not proud to say I am an American at all.

What's to be proud of, when places like Michigan search and destroy peoples lives?

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 3:08pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

And Michigan, I believe, has eliminated mandatory minimum drug sentencing.

The state is one of the poorest in the country. They simply can't afford to keep people locked up.

They want her back not to over flow another prison, but because she made law enforcement and the justice system there look bad. You can't give a 30 year "fuck you" to a state's ruling and then expect to be let go because you are a good person. The sentence is wrong, but so is running from it and then expecting to be let go.

Wed, 05/07/2008 - 11:57am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Stupid laws. Stupid state. Stupid enforcement. Stupid prosecutors. Stupid legislators. Stupid police. and a stupid population that sits by and endures all of this stupidity done in the name of the people.

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 4:11pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Keep in mind that the reason this continues is because people are scared. They see people they know go to prison or jail because of cannabis or other things and they feel they cannot speak out. Just to prove my point look at all the states that have legalized MM all by more then 50% margins of the vote in those states and the national polls that have more than 75% of Americans saying they would like cannabis made legal. This is all political with the pharma industrys keeping us off balance and unsure. Make no mistake about the way things are, but with our continued pressure on our elected officals true change will happen. Write your elected officals and the Prez, it takes years for true change to happen at the national level but if we start nipping at the edges of this and other issues it will happen much faster than it has been happening. We are strong together!

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 5:01pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Just look at alcohol prohibition... that involved the nation passing an amendment to the Constitution and then passing another amendment to repeal the first amendment... and all that happened in a span of 16 years.

The unConstituional drug war has been going on much longer and people have been challenging it for far longer than the failed experiment of prohibition lasted.

No amount of public pressure is going to convince the government to give up the power they have as a result of the drug war... it is time to either take a stand or forever be under the jack boot of the rabid prohibitionist.

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 5:17pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

There won't be any debate about this woman... not where it matters... in the hollow heads of prohibitionists & fundamentalists!

The criminal agents within gov't responsible for the drug war are usually untouchable creepy christian fundamentalists with the primary value/goal of killing or incarcerating those that DARE to Doubt and Expose their delusions to the light of facts.

If only they could see their true natures, robust with paranoia, pretense, and pompacity, like the intellegent people the world over does!

Remember, deluded is how they roll... it's their addiction.

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 6:07pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It's not just this rediculous war on drugs It's the war on people and not just in this country ,we're always in everyones face with our politics or our soldiers .The judicial system is far from broken...It's corrupt! plain and simple,you don't even have to do anything wrong to end up either in or before the system,some cops are honest but thats shortlived!,The people need to take its country back out of the hands of the criminal!!....look on tv. what are the most popular what shows are their really more of? cop shows and ''we '' stupidly sit and watch them,hollywoods version is pasteurized! I was nailed by cancer got the operation,to be followed by chemo and radiation,I tried to ''self medicate'' to help my way through chemo,somehow ,still don't know how I was nailed w/possession and intent to sell my wife charged as well because as my caregiver she knew and didn't rat me out,It cost us a fortune to have the charges dropped from first degree at 20 years to 4th degree w/i-yr combi,house arrest ,parole w/2 yrs. probation to be served together thankfully dropped to 8mon.and 1 year ,ones over other has a mon.Meant nothing that we're both highly educated have a substantial business w/employees me w/cancer ,can't speak w/o an electronic aid ,stupid stupid state police lie about having a warrant to search our house ,get away w/it ....revolution much in need but then I've been very vocal about this for a very long time,perhaps that was my payback!!

Fri, 05/02/2008 - 8:51pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

we have medical marijuana in 12 states. over 25 states have the ballot initiative process. all we have to do is get good initiatives on the ballot and the people will vote for them; then the tide will turn.

look at Cally it's almost legal there even though there are problems.
check out May '08 High Times on Cally.

Sun, 05/04/2008 - 9:28am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Americans are fat and asleep at the wheel...we have turned our country over to political thugs who pose as representatives and leaders. We need to forget about our toys and our own wants and needs and take charge of our country. Stop global imperialism and take control of our spending and rethink our priorities. We have problems that need taking care of---drugs is not a problem---only a condition created by greedy legislators and fueled by the cartel. thank you.

Tue, 05/06/2008 - 12:01pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

>> Remember the story of the cop pursuing someone for years because he stole a loaf of bread? Same idea.<<

Yes, by Victor Hugo, and the title was, as now, "The miserables"

Sun, 06/08/2008 - 9:30am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I recently graduated from a law school in Michigan. I have lived there my entire life as well. I am ashamed to be a Michigan resident. Michigan is a breeding pit for unconstitutionality. I encourage everyone to take a look at Supreme Court criminal procedure jurisprudence over the past thirty years. It's astounding how many cases come from Michigan. Our legislature needs to sack up and start making laws that actually PROTECT people rather than line their pathetic, empty pockets.

You guys really want to stop the "drug war"? Here's an idea: stop starting fights.

I'm willing to bet that the people who rant and rave about how drugs destroy this country have never actually dealt with people who use/abuse drugs let alone try them. If either were true, they would focus their efforts on rehabilitation and education.

Wed, 07/16/2008 - 12:30am Permalink

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