GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – If you were enamored by the capture Monday of our recently famous prison escapee from Alabama, you may be intrigued to know there are 10 people in the Piedmont Triad who fled prison and remain free.
They range from a man in Davidson County and another from Surry County convicted of second-degree murder to a person from Forsyth County convicted of the rape of a child to a Guilford County man doing time for cocaine trafficking. All but one is a felon, some habitual felons.
Some of them have been gone for quite a while, far beyond the date when they would have been released from prison. One guy left during a truly short sentence.
Willie J. Searight, who was doing a 20-year term in Wilkes County for armed robbery, has been on the loose since July 31, 1978. His term would have ended in 1996.
Angelberto G. Ortega, 79, was convicted of second-degree murder in Surry County on charges he shot and killed Jesus Zavola. He has been on the loose since 1985.
Wesley Hendley, who was doing 20 years on a Guilford County charge for kidnapping, escaped in Alamance County in Dec. 22, 1987. He had about two more years to serve.
These 10 can be found in a list of 33 inmates from North Carolina who found their way from behind bars and never have been returned to custody. A database maintained by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety chronicles 51 total escapes with 18 people returned to custody.
It’s unclear whether DPS knows if any of those escapees even remains alive. J.W. Burgess Jr. who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1944, was serving a sentence of 52 years and 6 months in Mecklenburg County when he escaped on Dec. 21, 1968. He would be 96 now.
Stella Seals, one of at least two women on the escapee database, was serving 30 years, 2 months and 18 days for second-degree murder in Scotland County when she took off in 1970 from the state women’s prison. She would be 91.
The other woman, Linda S. Williams, aka Dorethea Moore, was doing 40 years for an armed robbery in Duplin County when she escaped in 1979.
The statewide escapee list includes four convicted of first-degree murder, six convicted of second-degree murder and two of manslaughter. There were two convicted of rape.
It includes Eddie L. Leonard, who escaped on a first-degree burglary charge in 1962, and three others from the 1960s who never returned to jail and are long past the scheduled release dates.
The most recent escapee to remain free is Christopher E. Morris, who was servicing 20 years for robbery and several related charges in Guilford and Davidson counties when he took off in Davidson County on Sept. 22, 2000.
Erasmo Tamayo in Davidson County has the longest term among the 10 locally. He had served about 5 years of a 50-year sentence for second-degree murder in Onslow County when he escaped in 1993.
He was on a work detail for a horticulture project at the Davidson Correction Center when officials said he “slipped away.” At the time of his escape, he was the sixth from that facility that year. Officials told the News & Record that they thought he was headed to Kernersville.
But Delfino M. Juarez had only an 18-month sentence for first-degree assault in Alamance County and had served slightly more than a month when he left jail on Aug. 30, 2000.
Of those who remain free, two were convicted in Guilford County and one each in Alamance, Buncombe, Cumberland Davie, Forsyth, Onslow and Surry. One was convicted in both Guilford and Davidson counties.
Some are caught
But not everyone gets away. Among those who were caught, almost all were returned in 2021 or 2022, the database says.
An exception is Lohman R. Mays, who escaped second-degree murder charges in Cabarrus County in 1975 but was caught 10 years later in Wyoming. He remains in custody there.
Tavaris Edwards, 38, of Davidson County was serving 4 years for being a habitual felon with drugs and burglary charges, most recently in 2019. He was jailed in January of 2020 and would have been released in February 2022. He escaped on June 21, 2021, and was caught on July 15, 2021.
James Futrell, 50, was jailed on May 29, 2020, for a sentence of 2 years and 9 months on charges of receiving a stolen vehicle in Rockingham County. He escaped on June 30, 2021, but was caught a week later.
Richard A. Mundy, 53, a habitual felon with a history of burglary and breaking and entering, in March 2004 started serving 28 years 7 months in Randolph County when he stole a dump truck from a work detail in Scotland County on Oct. 21.
The truck was found in Randleman, and two days later he was back in jail.