A man listed on Florida's 10 Most Wanted list was apprehended in a home in Holladay Friday evening by U.S. Marshals, Utah Public Safety officers and an officer from the Florida's Department of Law Enforcement.
According to Tal Whiddon, spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Willie Norris Griffith has been living in Utah for "a number of years" under an assumed name, which has not yet been released. He escaped from prison 11 years ago.Griffith was arrested in 1975 in connection with the murder of a cab driver in an attempted robbery, in Orlando, Fla. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years.
Four years later, in Aug. 1979, Griffith and two other inmates broke into a closet terminal housing the switches for the Union Correctional Institute's perimeter lights. While it was dark, the three scaled the outside fence. One inmate was apprehended by guards, but Griffith and another inmate remained at large. The other escapee remains free.
Whiddon said officials received a tip from a Florida citizen that put them on Griffith's trail. The information led officials through several states. Whiddon said other residents in the Holladay home were not aware Griffith was a fugitive, and no charges have been filed against them.
Officials say Griffith told them he has led a "clean life" for the past three years but was involved in narcotics dealing before that time. He reportedly has been working in the area, although officials would not release any information about where he was working or with whom he was living.
Griffith is being held in the Salt Lake County jail pending extradition to Florida.
A similar situation took place in Utah in November 1988. Daniel Eugene Binick, wanted for murder of a bartender in Baltimore, escaped arrest and came to Utah. Here he assumed the name Jerry LeBaeu and devoted his life to Christian causes - helping transients, alcoholics and drug abusers.
Binick decided to turn himself in after visiting with a Catholic priest in Huntsville. He surrendered to FBI agents and returned to Baltimore. A Maryland judge gave Binick a 30-year suspended sentence with two years of residential treatment in Utah, citing his changed life and character references from many Utah residents as reason for the light sentence.