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Database Finds Fugitive After 35 Years 459

Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian has a story on a woman who was claims she is innocent and was apprehended 35 years after escaping prison by a computer database created by the Department of Homeland Security. Linda Darby was convicted of killing her husband in 1970 and sentenced to life at an Indiana prison but escaped two years later by climbing over a barbed-wire fence at the Indiana Women's Prison. She knocked on a stranger's door in Indianapolis, telling the woman who answered that her cuts and scratches were from a fight with her boyfriend. In Indianapolis she met the man who would become her third husband and moved to his hometown of Pulaski, where they raised their two children and watched eight grandchildren grow up. As Linda Jo McElroy, she used a similar date of birth and social security number to her real ones which allowed a computer database created by the Department of Homeland Security to identify her. Darby says she is innocent and fled prison because she did not want to serve time for another person's crime."
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Database Finds Fugitive After 35 Years

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  • by Sanat ( 702 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:44AM (#21223247)
    Back in the 80's I was setting up a call center for the computer company where I worked and one of the steps was to search for duplicate serial numbers and standardize model numbers, customer names, etc. I'm sure anyone who worked with databases understands this process.

    Our databases were regional, so while searching for duplicates a whole computer system suddenly disappeared from the Northeast and mysteriously showed up in Florida. I started researching thinking that the system perhaps was stolen but instead I accidentally uncovered a CIA operation. Don't know if it is still active so I won't say anything else about it except database integration can give insights and glimpses into situations that are at first very transparent.

    This sounds like what caught Linda.
  • tricky one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:54AM (#21223291)
    Tricky one.

    Rather then attempt to clear her name shed escaped from jail and started a new life - a felony in itself.

    On one hand you take the argument that they system has an appeals system designed to right injustice so if she believed she was innocent she should of tried to clear her name, on the other hand you have a possibly inept defense lawyer who seemed not to be dong their job and the possibility that left on her own she would rot in jail.

    It is clear that the police have significant evidence to pin the crime on her, and the original jury clearly thought so. And we only have to facts as stated from TFA that make her seem like a saint based on the new life after the original murder.

    And a justice system only works if all judgments and laws are upheld.

    I am slightly disturbed by the final comment about this database "But there also were other clues that he said he could not talk about." - WTF? has this person never heard of conspiracy theorists? give them a single clue like that and they can invent ten secret organizations by lunchtime.

  • by Elemenope ( 905108 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:01AM (#21223343)

    (Bracing for the bitchslaps...)

    You know, this is what drives me crazy about how our justice system deals with murder. On the long list of crimes ranked by recidivism rates, murder ranks very near the bottom. Except for the few sociopaths who see murder as acceptable means for financial or personal gain, and the even fewer number who kill to indulge a predatory instinct or because it's just fun for them, the vast majority of murders are very obviously one-time affairs. Most murderers are far less of a continuing threat to society than, say, rapists and molesters.

    So, why do we impose the heaviest sentences for murder, regardless of circumstance, heavier than those crimes that indicate a far more sociopathic personality, if the justice system is first and foremost about protecting society and its interests?

  • Re:Of course... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Squalish ( 542159 ) <Squalish AT hotmail DOT com> on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:09AM (#21223389) Journal
    And I quite like Mexico's philosophy on the policy []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:29AM (#21223493)
    I thought that such data - as in from massive wiretapping and data-mining - collected in the name of the War On Terror (tm) by the DHS & Co, et al were not to be used in the pursuit of "ordinary" domestic crime?
  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:54AM (#21223649) Journal
    Since she lived 35 years without committing crimes (let alone murder), I think she's innocent. Your actions are who you are.
  • Re:convictions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NekSnappa ( 803141 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:08AM (#21223749)

    True, but this is what the appeals process is for. There are more avenues than escape from prison.

    Is it a perfect system? Of course not, but it serve it's purpose "for the most part."

  • Convict (Score:3, Interesting)

    by conureman ( 748753 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:41AM (#21223961)
    In the People's Republic of California, a conviction equals guilt. It never matters if a crime actually occurred, or who did it. Just round up the usual suspects and see if any plausible story can be cooked up with the DA. Who is the jury gonna believe? We are all just out on our own recognizance until they find out who didn't bring a lawyer. A litmus test for people I meet is to tell about one of the times that I was grabbed off the street as a likely suspect. A witness was brought by my cell, he told the cop "That ain't the guy" cop says "Are you sure? look again." Witness got pissed off that the cops dragged him out there, cop was pissed that the witness wouldn't finger me. I reckon a lot of folks go "well maybe it could have been him". Its not like it was a line-up either, just me, alone in a box. An amazing (to me) number of people say I wouldn't have been arrested if I didn't do anything, and shun me. Those are MY peers.
  • When prison helps (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CustomDesigned ( 250089 ) <> on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:44AM (#21223981) Homepage Journal
    A guy at our church used to be a domestic terrorist. He had joined a KKK group. When he was finally caught and imprisoned [], he had bombed dozens of black churches and synagogues. Initially, prison made him worse. But during a long stretch of solitary confinement, he finally took stock of his life and asked God to help him change into a better person.
  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @11:49AM (#21224021) Journal
    think that the ''big government databases'' are a good thing and that we should approve their continued use. What is buried are the stories where these databases have screwed up and inconvenienced (or worse) innocent people.

    Agreed. That some escaped convict was caught is certainly good news. The bigger question, since the database "caught" her for using an SSN that was "close" to her old one, is what happened to the other few hundred people whose SSN was a digit off as well?
  • by twms2h ( 473383 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @12:00PM (#21224113) Homepage

    if I remember correctly the department of homeland security was created to fight dangers for the national security, that is terrorists. How does a database of Americans fit into this? And why was it used to catch a fugitive prisoner - no matter whether she was was acutally a murderess or not? What's next? Catching people for speeding?

  • Re:Of course... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @12:12PM (#21224201)
    Of course sex is a basic human urge... but rape?

    People do it, but I'd hardly call it basic.

    If you have the urge to rape people, I would urge you to talk to a psychiatrist. Even if you never act on those urges, it's a sign of something you should be dealing with.
  • by smidget2k4 ( 847334 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @12:28PM (#21224305)

    A huge government database full of your SSN and other personally identifying information (Lexis-Nexis, anyone?), including relative's names, former names, former SSNs, birthday's you've listed, jobs you've worked at, places you bank with... list goes on and on.

    I don't know about you, but having all of that information readily available and consolidated in one place seems like a dangerous thing to me, and would violate my privacy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @01:28PM (#21224725)

    I really couldn't care less if she's been a saint since she escaped

    To me, that's the only thing that matters. I really couldn't care less if she's guilty. Prisons are meant to keep people who are a danger to society locked up, if she's not a danger to society, then I don't want to waste tax money on it. The idea of punishment as some type of justice is misguided at best. Justice is when someone who owes you money is forced to pay up, or someone who stole from you is forced to return the goods. When someone is killed, nothing can bring them back, so there can be no justice.

  • by LilGuy ( 150110 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @01:51PM (#21224871)
    Why isn't it called murder when the president slaughters people? Every single president we've had has killed at least 1 person. Yet they roam free and give speeches and get applause.

    That's a hell of a double standard there.
  • Re:Of course... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Saturday November 03, 2007 @02:40PM (#21225289)

    If you read the link, you'll find that there's much more to it.
    Such as what? I read the link, and it seems pretty clear -- escaping itself is not a crime, and the accused is both permitted and expected to try. Of course, guards can shoot them in the process, and they are not pardoned for any crimes they commit in the process. But if they figure out how to escape without breaking any laws, they will not have any additional time tacked on to their sentences simply for trying to escape. They will eventually be caught in most cases, and will be forced to finish out their sentences. It has absolutely nothing to do with pardoning rapists or whatever.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @08:26PM (#21227619) Homepage Journal
    Last time i looked, in Indiana, yes there is additional punishment for escaping.

    Oddly enough, this woman led a seemingly normal crime free life for 35 years. Perhaps she was innocent in the beginning like she claims, as its really hard for a criminal to go cold turkey.
  • by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @07:01AM (#21230291) Homepage Journal
    Propaganda lies, even when it tells the truth.

    This is what the MSM has been reduced to, propaganda and spin, which is why they're losing readers and viewers at an ever increasing rate.

    With the right kind of ears you can hear a sound. It is a harsh gnashing sound, but one that is becoming more shrill and louder all the time. More and more are able to hear it, and even see it. It is a desperate and fearful sound. It is the sound of the political left in America. They are terrified and in distress. You can measure their desperation by just how far their mask has fallen. There was a time when leftist bias in media was usually subtle, and its allegiance to the political left was hidden. Sometimes you could only barely perceive both. But now these are not only obvious, they are blatant and accompanied by the smell of fear. There was a time when the hatred that the left feels for America and its institutions was also shrouded and protected by cover stories, PR, and the creative redefining of words. Today they are increasingly saying what they really mean and what they really think, which has always been a disaster for them every time they have done it. Why have they changed? Because they are deathly afraid, almost to the point of panic.

    What do they fear? They fear the vast right wing conspiracy of course, and the effect it is having on their place in the scheme of things. What is the vast right wing conspiracy? Well you might have heard it described as something else, namely the rest of the country. The leftists have the misfortune (for them) of living in a functional democracy where their ability to fool enough of the people enough of the time is quickly becoming a thing of the past. They will of course re-invent themselves and pretend to be something else yet again. Evil never dies after all, it merely changes form and then reappears. Hopefully it will be a good long while before it does so this time.

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman