ATLANTA Deborah Ann Gavin did what many women do. She met a man, married, had two kids and lived quietly as a nurse. Until the day she feared for 33 years finally arrived.
Federal marshals surrounded her two-story home in East Texas on Wednesday, ending her life on the lam from a Georgia women's prison that was closed long ago because of a sex scandal.
"She just said she knew this day was going to come. But she hadn't prepared for it yet," said Jason Watson, a state corrections employee assigned to a fugitive task force that caught up with Gavin, surrounding her two-story home in Frankston, Texas.
Gavin, who was convicted of armed robbery, has refused to sign extradition papers that would bring her back to Georgia. Before she was taken away, she phoned her husband, Richard Murphey, who was at work at a construction site.
"All she said was when I got home, she wasn't going to be there," Murphey said from Texas.
Gavin, 53, escaped from the Georgia Women's Correctional Institution in Baldwin County in 1974, moving from state to state. After living in Tennessee, Florida and settling in Texas, she met and married Murphey, changed her last name and had two children, authorities said.
Gavin got a nurse's license and worked at a hospital. When her back and heart conditions worsened and she was too weak to work in a medical ward, she started a quilting business from home.
And through it all, Gavin stayed out of trouble.
"As far as we know, she's been completely clear," said Ricky Myrick, chief investigator for the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Records show that Gavin had escaped from the prison several times before her final escape, once fleeing as far as Louisiana, but she was always recaptured. At the time, the prison had no fences and security was lax, officials said.
In July 1974 a month after her last recapture Gavin again broke loose. This time, she disappeared.
"Things in her past, she'd get upset if I brought them up," Murphey told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I didn't push her."
Murphey said he visited his wife Thursday in the Anderson County, Texas, jail. He said Friday that she told him she fled the prison because female inmates were being sexually abused.
The prison was the center of a sex scandal that broke in the early 1990s. Investigations prompted by lawsuits turned up cases going back for years of guards having sex with inmates. All the women were moved out of the prison in 1993 and it became a men's prison.
"They were having rapes and molesting the women, the guards were," Murphey said. "That's why she took off. It floored me when I seen it on the Internet that she'd left six times."
The search for Gavin made its way through the Southeast, until the U.S. Marshal Service's Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force found she was living in Frankston under the name Deborah Murphey. They began watching the house Monday, posing as city workers who were checking on a work order.
"Thirty-three years is a long time," said James Ergas, a Marshal Service supervisory inspector working the case. "They didn't want to jump a 53-year-old woman and drive her to the ground if it was the wrong person."