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South Carolina prison escapee on loose for 40 years nabbed in Delaware after drunk in public arrest

A South Carolina prison escapee was back behind bars on New Year’s Day after spending 40 years on the lam.

Jose Romero was part of a prison work crew when he took off on Dec. 13, 1979, with seven years to go on an 18-year-old prison sentence for armed robbery, according to reports.

He was apprehended Wednesday in Dover, Del., where he was living under the name Arnaldo Figueroa, Dover police said Thursday.

He became a fugitive when he was 24.

Jose Romero mugshots from the 1970s and this week in Dover, Delaware

Jose Romero mugshots from the 1970s and this week in Dover, Delaware (SCDC/Dover Police Department)

Romero’s eventual undoing was a Dec. 28 arrest for public intoxication and trespassing in Dover.

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Police processed the case under Romero’s assumed name. His proof of identity was an identification card from the Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles that had been issued to Arnaldo Figueroa, police said.

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But police also took his fingerprints, which came back two days after the arrest to Romero “who was a wanted subject out of South Carolina.”

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Dover police said officers took Romero into custody Wednesday morning after seeing him as they drove around looking for him.

Back in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Romero will have to complete his original sentence plus serve more time for escaping.

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“He definitely would’ve been out by now and hopefully would’ve gone on to a productive life and take advantage of some of the programs we have at SCDC,” says Bryan Stirling, SCDC director, according to WLTX-TV. “But he decided he wanted to walk away and now he’s looking at some substantial time.”

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