Walton Man Discovered As Fugitive

By Kiersten Mathieu

July 22, 2010 Updated Oct 20, 2006 at 11:19 PM EDT

Larry Eldridge would visit a Walton auto parts store at least once a week.

"He seemed pretty decent," says store manager Lynn Neidig.

Neidig was shocked to learn that Eldridge is really 48 year old Morris Johnson.

A fugitive who escaped from a jail in Washington State in 1980.

"I didn't believe it. I mean, it's hard to believe. He sure didn't act like he was on the run or anything," says Neidig.

Walton Police can only say the man everyone knows as Larry Eldridge was investigated after an incident last month.

A search of the state's police information network uncovered that he was wanted as Morris Johnson.

"It's kind of funny because he was right under our nose all this time," says Jeff Bowie of the Delaware County Sheriff's Office.

The Washington State Correctional Facility says Johnson was serving time for an assault charge.

A spokesperson says Johnson walked away during a work-release program.

Years on the run, he settled in Walton.

Started a life and made friends, like Walton Police Seargent David Halaquist.

"I've known this man for at least 10 years working here. He owned a business in town. I had done business with him personally. And I had no idea he was wanted," says Halaquist.

His business, Walton Tractor Repair, used to operate out of here.

Butch Neale rented the space to Johnson.

"He treated me fair, that's all I know. He was very decent to me," says Neale.

Johnson is sitting in the Delaware County Jail, awaiting extradition back to Washington.

"He said he hopes to come back here someday," says Bowie.

Johnson is charged with escape in the first degree.

If he's sentenced to serve the maximum, he'll have to wait 25 years to come back to Walton again.

Johnson has a teenage daughter.

Police did get a tip that he was using an alias.

He was arraigned Thursday in Delaware County Court and will have to return for a hearing next week.

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