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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Sets 30-Year Fugitive Free on Bond

(CN) - A Missouri judge's decision to release a Florida fugitive has angered Florida law enforcement officials. Oscar Richardson apparently lived peacefully for 30 years, under another name, after he escaped from a Florida work release center n 1979.

Taney County Judge Tony Williams allowed Richardson to be freed on a $25,000 bond. Richardson, 61, had worked as a handyman in the house where he lived in Ridgedale, Mo., near the Arkansas border, for 26 years. He escaped from the Kissimmee Work Release Center in March 1979. Authorities told The Associated Press that he had changed his name to Eugene Ward, had a fake Social Security number, had remarried and fathered a child.

Richardson was convicted of holding a gun to two employees of a Tampa drugstore in January 1977, and demanding money from the store safe. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Someone recognized Richardson from Florida's "12 Days of Fugitives" campaign, which posts photos of the state's oldest and most violent prison escapees on billboards across the state.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey blasted Judge Williams' decision upon learning about Richardson's release.

"I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the irresponsible decision of Judge Tony Williams to allow Oscar Richardson to post bond," Bailey told the AP. "Allowing this fugitive to walk out of a courtroom after hiding from authorities for 30 years diminishes the seriousness of his crimes and shows a lack of sensitivity for those he victimized."

Richardson's lawyer, Dee Wampler of Springfield, Mo., said his client has refused to waive extradition. Ridgedale is 265 miles southwest of St. Louis.

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