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Mission accomplished, he surrenders after 12 years

Twelve years ago, Larry W. Smith jumped bail to avoid a two-year prison term, saying he wanted to rear his 7-year-old daughter. Smith turned himself in this week after his daughter, Penny, now 19, joined the Marines. Prosecutors made clear his case had not been forgotten.

"He thought that 12 years would change things and that they'd go a little easier on him. But right away, the state's attorney said he was throwing the book at him for jumping bond," said his sister, Deborah Sprinkle, 35, who was arrested with her brother in 1977 on drug charges.

"Last night he called from jail and said he didn't know if he'd done the right thing," said Mrs. Sprinkle, who spent three months in jail after pleading guilty to distribution of methamphetamine. She spoke in a telephone interview Wednesday from Smith's hometown of Pekin, about 15 miles from Peoria.

Smith, 40, surrendered to Sheriff James Donahue on Tuesday.

"He introduced himself and as soon as he said his name I realized who he was and that we had warrants on him," Donahue said.

Smith was convicted in 1978 of selling methamphetamine, or "speed," to an undercover officer and sentenced to prison. He fled after posting $3,000 bail.

State's Attorney Erik Blanc said Wednesday he plans to pursue all charges still pending against Smith, including perjury, another drug offense and two misdemeanors.

"Assuming he's convicted, it'll be up to the judge to decide whether any leniency is warranted," the prosecutor said.

Richard Smith, 45, of Pekin, said he urged his younger brother to surrender.

"His main concern was raising his daughter," Richard Smith said. "She knew her dad was a fugitive and that he was going to surrender as soon as she was on her own."

Larry Smith settled in Antioch, Calif., where he ran a welding shop with his brother Dennis.

Smith's surrender followed a week of festivities in Pekin at the home of his parents, Dolores and Lawrence E. Smith.

"He hadn't been back in 12 years and we had a big family reunion. . . . He came back because my mom has been in bad health and he wanted to put all this behind him," Mrs. Sprinkle said.

"I told him this was something he just had to do," said Smith's father, 65. "He's a good man. He's changed a lot in 12 years. He loves his family and wants to be with us.

"He's raised a beautiful girl and worked hard. Now he's decided he's going to face up to his mistakes. I hope he gets off pretty light. He deserves it."