It can take months, years or even decades to catch an Oklahoma prison escapee. But fugitive investigators never give up on their manhunts.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said investigators review older cases annually, searching for fresh leads.
Jose Garcia and Teddy Ellis represent two types of escapees. Garcia was a nonviolent offender who couldn't handle five years in prison on a drug offense and vanished. Ellis was serving a life term for the robbery and shooting death of a hitchhiker and escaped with four other inmates after serving only four years of his sentence.
Here are their stories:Jose Lazaro Garcia
Timothy Brown knew something was amiss when he flipped the light switch inside Sweet Leona's Lounge in Oklahoma City and noticed three empty beer bottles on the floor behind the bar.
According to court documents, it was about 1:25 a.m. on June 26, 1972, and Brown was there to clean up the place. He checked the restrooms and found no one inside.
Brown went to the office and found the door ajar and the light on. Someone was standing behind the door, breathing heavily. He kicked it open and confronted Jose Lazaro Garcia, 28.
The intruder was holding something underneath his shirt as if it were a gun, but Brown didn't buy it. He subdued Garcia and called police.
At the time, Garcia had a suspended five-year prison sentence for possession of methadone. His probation was revoked and he was sent to the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite.
And that's where he stayed until Oct. 18, 1973. He was brought to what is now OU Medical Center for treatment and walked away from correctional officers. He has avoided recapture for nearly 40 years.
But his profile remains on the DOC website, listed among other escapees.
If Garcia were caught today, he would be in just as much trouble as he was in 1973, Massie said. "Like everyone on the list he'll stay on until we find out he's dead."Teddy Lynn Ellis
Ellis has been missing since May 24, 1986, when he and four other inmates escaped from Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy through a storm drainage tunnel. Authorities say the Norman man was involved in a motorcycle gang.
He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in June 1982 in the shooting death of hitchhiker Dale Eugene Spurgin.
Court records show Ellis was 17 at the time of the shooting and was sent to a hospital in Vinita to determine competency. Hospital staff said Ellis didn't need psychiatric care and turned him over to the court.
Witness Andrew Porter, 19 at the time, testified he picked up Spurgin, 27, in Oklahoma City on June 19, 1982. He said Ellis was in the car with him and Spurgin had offered to buy them beer if they would take him to Lake Thunderbird.
Porter said they went to the lake and drove around for half an hour, drinking. He said his friend Johnny was with them and had a gun. Spurgin also had a firearm, and Porter said they all took turns firing the guns. Later, they went to the Little River Bridge on the Harrah and Newalla Road.
Porter told authorities Ellis said," Going to rob this guy. Is anyone going to stop me?"
Spurgin told Ellis "not to kid around" and made a move for the pistol, Porter testified. Ellis then shot Spurgin in the chest and told him to walk toward the vehicle's trunk, Porter said.
According to court documents, Porter's friend said he heard Ellis tell Spurgin to jump off the bridge and when he leaned forward, Ellis shot the hitchhiker in the ear. Spurgin's body was dumped in the river and $20 stolen from his wallet, Porter testified.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Ellis on June 27, 1982. He pleaded guilty that September and was sentenced to life in prison.Search continues
Deputy U.S. Marshal Chad Hunt said finding escapees like Garcia and Ellis becomes harder over time. Garcia would be 68 today and may have returned to Mexico. Ellis would be 47.
Officials have received information Ellis might be dead but have not been able to confirm it, so the search continues.
"From a technological standpoint we have advantages now that we didn't have 10 or 20 years ago," Hunt said. "But when we start looking for people that go that far back often any reports that were generated at the time of their arrest are sitting in some warehouse."
Even finding people who know the escapee can be difficult as time passes.
"We have to treat finding their family and friends a little like looking for the fugitive themselves because they might have moved," Hunt said. "We have to sometimes interview retired law enforcement officials. That's not to say it's impossible. We do things like that all the time, but it definitely makes it more challenging."