Long-escaped prisoner plans for freedom again

Associated Press

HARDWICK, Ga. — When J.C. Fuller complained to a guard that he saw poisonous cottonmouth snakes in a stream where his convict road gang had been ordered to work, the guard shrugged and told him, "There’s the road … "

"I hit the road the next morning," Fuller said.

The escaped convict enjoyed freedom for the next 47 years, the longest any Georgia inmate has ever been on the lam.

Authorities tracked him down last year in Miami, where he had been living under his real name, working in construction and "staying out of trouble."

"The good Lord just blessed me to stay out," said the 76-year-old Fuller, who now has a month left to serve on his original four-year sentence for attempted murder. "I worked, I went to church and I went fishing. I had to be doing all right to stay out that long."

Fuller, who was given no additional prison time for his escape, said he was never concerned about getting caught.

"I voted for President Carter and President Clinton. I worked. I had a little money, clothes and a place to stay. I didn’t have anything to worry about," he said.

The Georgia Department of Corrections’ fugitive squad tracked Fuller down during a review of old case files early last year.

Fuller is serving out his sentence at the Hardwick Men’s Prison, home to 650 elderly men, in a large brick building surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with coils of silvery razor wire.

Fuller said his original legal problems began one Sunday morning when he rejected his girlfriend’s invitation to go to church and instead went out drinking. Later, when his girlfriend became enraged because she saw him talking to a female acquaintance, they fought and his shotgun went off.

"The shotgun went off, in a way, by me drinking," he said. "If I hadn’t been drinking, it wouldn’t have happened."

In 1952, when he was 29, Fuller was sentenced to four years in prison and was sent to the Thomas County Public Works Camp in Thomasville.

Now that he’s close to his release, Fuller hopes to return to his childhood home in Wilcox County, about 40 miles southeast of Macon, where he grew up picking cotton and thrashing peanuts on his grandmother’s farm.

"I think I’ll buy a trailer and go fishing," he said.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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