LINWOOD, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – The search is officially off for a man who escaped from a Michigan prison camp in 1969 while serving time for burglary, officials said.
Jerry Bergevin would be 80 years old if he’s alive. The Michigan Department of Corrections granted him an administrative discharge because of his age and the length of time that has passed since anyone heard from him.
Angela Michels, 36, of Linwood, a Bay County community about 100 miles northwest of Detroit, said the decision is bittersweet. Michels has spent years researching her grandfather’s background and said she believes he probably died years ago.
“He’s home free, I guess,” she told the newspaper for a Thursday story.
Records show Bergevin was arrested in 1962 for breaking into a Flint drugstore, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10-15 years behind bars for that burglary and others. Bergevin appealed on a technicality, stood trial and received a reduced sentence.
In a letter he wrote to a judge, Bergevin said he hadn’t held down a steady job since 1960 and struggled to provide for his children.
“I used every dime I stole on close (clothes), extra food and things we needed,” he wrote. “We fixed our apartment up so it was fit to live in.”
Bergevin later asked to be transferred from a state prison in Jackson to Camp Waterloo, which housed low-level offenders, so he could attend a dental technician training program there. Prison officials agreed to the transfer in April 1969, and he disappeared soon afterward.
“In ’69, it probably had a single fence around it with barbed wire on top. It’s possible in ’69 it had no fence,” said John Cordell, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
The state printed flyers in 1969 offering a $25 reward for information leading to Bergevin’s arrest.
There are 24 outstanding MDOC escapees in Michigan, said Charles Levens, who runs the Outstate Region of the MDOC’s Absconder Recovery Unit. The oldest case dates to 1957, and the most recent is from 1988. Each file is reviewed at least yearly, he said.
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