Mississippi fugitive arrested in Utah after 34 years

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY, UT -- A man who police say has been on the run since he escaped from a Mississippi jail 34 years ago was arrested Thursday in a small central Utah town, police said.

Sam Gene Harris has lived under at least 10 different aliases and escaped from two other jails in Oregon, Carbon County Sheriff Jeff Wood said. He also has a criminal history in Florida and Georgia, including charges for theft and assaulting an officer, Wood said.

The 61-year-old man had been living relatively quietly off the main street of the 1,600-person town of Wellington for several years when an FBI bulletin tipped off Utah police to his identity Thursday, police said.

Officers were looking over the layout of his home to get a search warrant when they saw him walking across the street and arrested him, Wood said. Harris hasn't spoken with officers much about his background.

"He claims to have had a traumatic brain injury a few years ago, and he doesn't know where he was before that," Wood said.

Harris was living under the name Wayne Edward Stevens, the same name he used in Oregon, and he also a Utah driver's license under that name, Wood said.

No attorney was listed for Harris in court records on Friday, and his phone number was not publicly available.

Harris was serving a four-year sentence for shoplifting and possession of burglary tools in 1980 when he escaped from the Forrest County jail, Wood said. Harris will be extradited to Mississippi to face charges related to the escape.

He had been living alone in Utah. Officers had talked to him about a theft case, but he hadn't been charged, Wood said. Police are investigating how he went undetected so long.

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