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Fugitive found in Utah 34 years after escaping Mississippi prison

(Carbon County Sheriff's Office)

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PRICE — A man who escaped from a Mississippi prison in 1980 and has lived in Utah under an alias for more than 20 years has been arrested, authorities in Carbon County announced Friday.

Sam Gene Harris was arrested Thursday at his home in Wellington, where he had been living under the name Wayne Edward Stevens, according to Carbon County Sheriff Jeff Wood.

"He's been living there for 23 years," Wood said, "right under everybody's noses."

Harris, 62, was serving a four-year sentence for shoplifting and possession of burglary tools when he escaped from prison in November 1980, according to Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Tara Scott.

Records about the escape are so old that corrections staff would have to go through microfiche to provide additional details about the incident, Scott said.

"I can't even tell you if he was serving time in one of our prisons or in a county jail," she said. "It's just so old. But he definitely would have been on our radar if he showed up anywhere."

On Thursday, acting on information from the FBI, detectives went to conduct surveillance on a house in Wellington where Harris was believed to be living. During the surveillance, Harris came outside and detectives arrested him without incident about 10:45 a.m., the sheriff said.

He's been living there for 23 years right under everybody's noses.

–Carbon County Sheriff Jeff Wood

"Mr. Harris has built an extensive criminal history throughout the country and uses a number of aliases," according to a joint statement issued Friday by the sheriff's office and the Price and Wellington police departments. "Most of his previous crimes are theft related."

Harris had a Utah driver's license issued under the Stevens alias, authorities said, and has even had law enforcement contact under that alias. State court records, however, don't show any criminal cases for an individual named Wayne Edward Stevens.

Harris told investigators they arrested the wrong person; however, his fingerprints and a tattoo confirm that he is the fugitive authorities were looking for, Wood said.

For now, Harris is being held in the Carbon County Jail pending extradition to Mississippi. Wellington police are leading a joint investigation into Harris' history in Utah.

"We wonder how was he living, where was he getting his money to survive on?" Wood said.

Contributing: Alex Cabrero


Geoff Liesik


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