ZEPHYRHILLS — Alfred "Catfish" White waited for the end with a Pepsi and a Marlboro Red on the back porch of his lady's house. He knew she called the cops. She'd been threatening to do that since she found out he's been dodging the law for nearly 14 years on a warrant for escape.
"Do it," he told her.
It was about 4 a.m. Wednesday at her place on Eighth Street. They hadn't been together all that long; about five or six months. When they met, he swore he'd never get in another relationship again. His last girlfriend, he says, skipped out while he was in the hospital after a stroke and a heart attack; took his house and his Harley and left him with $4.24. He was done. He was just going to keep on traveling, keep on riding. Be his own boss. But here he was. Again.
He was tired.
White, 57, could have fled, like he always did. He walks slow now.
"I'm done running," he thought.
• • •
On the afternoon of March 1, 1997, White and his buddy, Earl, had a few beers after a construction job. According to White, he was headed east on State Road 54 when a truck pulled out in front of them.
"I tried to avoid it," White told the Times on Friday during an interview at the Pasco jail.
White's van hit the truck. Earl's front teeth were knocked out, he said. White's ribs were cracked.
"We were messed up," he said.
White's license had been suspended and he smelled of alcohol, a court document states.
White was "unable to perform field sobriety tests due to his injuries," the report states.
He was handcuffed and put into a cruiser.
"They handcuffed me in front and left the door open," White said. "They did everything wrong, man."
So he ran.
He said he was caught again about nine hours later. He wouldn't say where he went or how he got the handcuffs off. He doesn't want to incriminate anyone who helped him. He was charged with DUI, escape, driving on a suspended license and petty theft, for taking the handcuffs with him.
He spent his brief stint on the lam boozing.
"I was hurt," he said.
White said he was taken to Spring Hill Regional Hospital, where he spent a few days recovering. Then, the hospital released him.
"You can go," he said a nurse told him.
"No, man, I'm under arrest," he recalled saying.
"There's nobody at your door," White said the nurse told him. "You can go."
So he did.
He said he called his lawyer and called the Florida Highway Patrol — the agency that arrested him — to see what he should do. He said no one gave him an answer. And he wasn't going to beg to go to jail.
So he visited his brother in New York, where he's known as "Whitey" rather than "Catfish." He hung out with a cousin in California. His nickname there is "Refrigerator." He doesn't know why.
These years as a fugitive have been good years, he said. He dated beautiful women. He claims to have partied with Burt Reynolds and Gregg Allman.
"I've done amazing things," said White, who has long, wild auburn hair that is graying and an overgrown horseshoe mustache. He broke his back twice, he said, from motorcycle crashes.
"See this scar here?" he said, lifting his chin. He said someone tried to slit his throat and missed, jamming the knife through his chin, his tongue, the roof of his mouth. The tip poked through his nose.
"Right here," he said, pointing.
He wouldn't say why someone would want to kill him.
He said he has a daughter, who is 29 and lives in New York. He said his great-great-grandfather was an American Indian, and White has a huge portrait of him tattooed on his back. He's going to have that tattoo sliced off his back after he dies and put in a frame for his daughter for her to hang "on a wall," he said. He doesn't think this is odd.
He said he was picked up in New York in 2000 on a traffic stop and the officer ran his name, found the escape warrant and called Pasco County.
"They said, 'Cut him loose. We don't want him,' " White said. "So I thought everything was cleared up."
That's why he felt safe enough to come back to Florida. He knew he had the warrant. But he figured nobody cared.
• • •
The only thing he regrets is this last girlfriend.
"She snitched me out," he said Friday. He'd been sitting in jail for two days. He wasn't as Zen about getting picked up as he was when it happened. He felt trapped. His bail is set at $15,000, but he said he doesn't have that kind of money. He felt alone.
"I was the best there ever was and almost got away with it," he said.
"Oh well," he said. "Maybe some day I'll be out there again, slapping the blacktop." He fiddled with his inmate identification badge. It was highlighted in red and said "RISK."
Times researcher Natalie Watson and reporter Molly Moorhead contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.