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CANADA NABS FUGITIVE DUO `THELMA, LOUISE'

Published: Thursday, Oct. 5 1995 12:00 a.m. MDT

Five months after jumping a half-million-dollar bond in Houston, two American fugitives known as "Thelma and Louise" have been arrested in Toronto.

Joyce Carolyn Stevens, 31, and Rose Marie Turford, 36, wanted on charges of kidnapping and robbery, were nabbed Wednesday after police received an anonymous tip.Later, they were seen laughing in the back seat of an immigration department car en route to a city detention center.

"We've been on this merry chase for a couple of months now, and it paid off," Detective-Sgt. Bob Montrose of the Toronto police said of the search for the two women.

Turford, a married nurse with three children who is originally from London, Ontario, was arrested at a downtown phone sex service where she worked under a false name.

Stevens, a minister's daughter, was arrested at a house in suburban Etobicoke.

U.S. authorities allege the women devised elaborate schemes, including a fake dating service, to fleece men in Las Vegas, Houston and Galveston, Texas.

The two were arrested March 14 at a Houston motel and charged with three counts of aggravated robbery for holdups at gunpoint of three men who fell for the dating scheme.

They were later charged with kidnapping and robbing another man in Galveston County. Police say the two may be connected to nine other incidents in Las Vegas and Houston that began last January.

The duo jumped a combined $500,000 bail May 13 in Texas and then went on a crime spree spanning the United States, police say.

Detective Ron Reid of the Toronto police said the two are being held on immigration charges and warrants from Texas pending their extradition to Texas.

Houston police spokesman Fred King said it was unclear when the women would be extradited.

Attorneys for Stevens and Turford did not immediately return telephone calls from The Associated Press.

The alleged crimes shocked those who knew the women as quiet friends, prompting police and newspapers to begin calling them "Thelma and Louise" after the 1991 film about two women on the lam.

According to friends and police reports, the two became friends three years ago soon after they began working together at a hospital.

It's unclear just how the alleged crimes came about, but some officials believe Stevens told her new friend phony tales of espionage and danger and eventually lured Turford into the scheme.

"It just doesn't make any sense," Turford's lawyer, Mike Lamson, said in August. "I mean, she's a hard-working, registered psychiatric nurse. Her husband is an executive with a computer company. Upper-middle class. It just doesn't jive."

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