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Florida launches '12 Days of Fugitives' campaign to capture escaped convicts

It's not just shoppers who are getting into the holiday spirit.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has started a new campaign aimed at catching escaped convicts called the "12 Days of Fugitives."

While the name may sound festive, the crimes the escapees committed are no laughing matter, said FDLE spokesman Mike Morrison. Some are downright grim.

"They are among the oldest and most violent fugitives that have escaped from prison," he said. "They include murderers, armed robbers, drug dealers. Some have been on the run for 30 years."

One of the escapees is Robert L. Baldwin, who was 23 when he kidnapped two Pinellas County deputies at gunpoint in Tarpon Springs in May 1970. He later kidnapped an elderly couple and forced them to drive him to the Withlacoochee State Forest. He was sentenced to life in prison but escaped in July 1988. Afterward, he mailed a letter to his ex-wife postmarked California saying he planned to leave the country.

Michael Salem, now 65, escaped from the Polk Correctional Institute in 1980 by climbing over two perimeter fences. Salem was serving 15 years for kidnapping, grand theft, escape and possession of cocaine.

Authorities say in January 1976, Salem stole a law enforcement officer's firearm and held him against his will. He was arrested the same day by the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

Also on the list: Glen Stark Chambers, who also escaped from Polk in 1990. He concealed himself in a truck that was leaving the prison.

Chambers beat his girlfriend to death in 1975 hours after she bailed him out of jail for beating her outside a bowling alley. She died five days after he beat her up the second time.

The fugitive on the list who has been on the run the longest is Frederick Barrett, 58. He escaped from Union Correctional Facility in 1979. He was sentenced to life in prison after he fought with a man who was driving him somewhere and later held the man's head in a shallow ditch filled with water until he died.

The FDLE and the Department of Corrections chose the holidays to launch the campaign because it's the time of year when fugitives contact family, Morrison said.

The two departments first started working together on cold cases last holiday season, which led to the October arrest and capture of Edward Morales, who escaped from prison 21 years ago. He was serving time for second-degree murder and robbery with a firearm.

More than $22,000 is offered in reward money for tips that lead to the capture of the fugitives, Morrison said.

People with information about the fugitives are asked to call 1-877-FLA-WANTED, or 1-877-352-926-833. Or an e-mail can be sent to FLAWanted@fdle.state.fl.us.

Morrison said that callers can be anonymous but if someone wants to receive the cash award they'd eventually need to give a name.

"Our goal is to bring these bad guys home to prison for the holidays," he said.

Florida launches '12 Days of Fugitives' campaign to capture escaped convicts 12/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 3:28pm]
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