Crime & Courts

Case closed: He escaped SC prison in 1950, but officials just stopped looking for him

They escaped from SC prisons. Now they’re still on the run decades later

South Carolina has a long history of prison breaks, which mostly ends with suspects taken back into custody. These criminals are still on the run decades later.
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South Carolina has a long history of prison breaks, which mostly ends with suspects taken back into custody. These criminals are still on the run decades later.

After nearly 68 years, the S.C. Department of Corrections gave up last week on finding escapee Herbert Simmons.

Simmons, who would have turned 95 this year, escaped from what is now the Wateree River Correctional Institution in Sumter County on Sept. 30, 1950.

As of Thursday, Simmons was still listed as an escapee on the state corrections department's website. The website included an information sheet about Simmons that was updated in May.

But after an inquiry from The State, the Department of Corrections removed Simmons' information from the website later Thursday. When asked about the change, the department provided a 2014 judge's statement that said the judge would not provide a new arrest warrant for Simmons, saying, "We believe too much time has passed since the warrant was drawn in September of 1950. It is very likely that the defendant is deceased."

Police arrested Simmons in 1949 for breaking into a home during the day. He was sentenced to five years and sent to Wateree State Prison Farm, now known as the Wateree River Correctional Institution.

Simmons, who was married, lived on John's Island before being sent to prison.

"My assumption is he was out there on a job assignment and just left from the job assignment when officers weren't looking over him," former inspector general of the corrections department Daniel Murphy told WCSC of Charleston in 2008.

With the Simmons case removed, the oldest active escapee investigation involves Sandra Lee Carter.

Carter ran out on her three-year prison sentence for marijuana procession in 1973, according to the corrections department website.

She had been arrested in Beaufort on the drug charge and was a waitress at the time, her wanted notice notes. Prosecutors previously had convicted Carter on charges of prostitution in Florida. She was being held at the Women's Correctional Institution, which is now the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution on Broad River Road in Columbia.

"She has asthma and is a heavy smoker and drinker," Carter's wanted poster reads.

Cases like Carter's are assigned to police services agents of the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

"These efforts include rechecking old tips, following up on new tips and using any other means possible in the search," says Jeffrey Taillon, spokesperson for the SCDC. "The wanted flyers on the SCDC website are consistently updated, to include age progressive photos when available, which we hope generates new information."

The corrections department lists seven individuals wanted for escaping prison in the Palmetto State. Each tells its own story, like the case of Rose Lewallen.

"She has an extensive criminal background dating back to 1957," her wanted poster reads. "She has been arrested in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina."

Charges against Lewallen included grand larceny, forgery, altering government checks, and kidnapping. Imprisoned at what's listed as the "Women's Correctional Institution" in Columbia, she escaped on February 26, 1977.

Newspaper reports from 1980 said numerous people sighted Lewallen in McGuiresville, Ariz.; Big Sandy, Wy.; and Sprague, Wash., according to her wanted notice.

In 1975, Lewallen also escaped from the Georgia Department of Corrections.

The latest open escapee case is that of Helena Malinouski, who escaped in 1985.

"Malinouski was affiliated with the Polish Gypsies out of New York," her wanted flier reads.

Previously arrested by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1983, she also was arrested in Euclid, Ohio. She escaped State Park Correctional Center near Columbia in November 1985 after being sentenced to five years for breaking into a house during the day.

Malinouski was found in Canada and is currently awaiting extradition.

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