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Baltimore escapee surrenders, 33 years later

A Baltimore man who had been a fugitive for 33 years after escaping from the state's prison system turned himself in to authorities in Oklahoma this week.

Anthony Rackley, 62, is being held in the Oklahoma City jail and will likely be extradited to Maryland, a spokesman for that city's police department said Saturday.

Rackley was arrested Monday after he told police he was being extorted by someone who knew about his escape, according to a report in The Oklahoman newspaper. The Oklahoma City police spokesman said Saturday that the information released by the department to the newspaper was not available.

After his escape, Rackley was working as a fundraiser for a Lions Club branch in Oklahoma City under the assumed name of Jack Watson, according to the newspaper. He told his fundraising partner about 10 years ago that he was a fugitive, and the man began demanding Rackley give him larger and larger portions of the money he raised or he would reveal his secret. By Monday, Rackley had had enough of blackmail and turned himself in.

Oklahoma City police are investigating Rackley's claims but have not made an arrest.

Rackley had about five years left on his sentence when he escaped from a pre-release facility on Greenmount Avenue on July 11, 1980, said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Rackley's conviction predated electronic court records, and Vernarelli had few details other than that it involved armed robbery .

Rackley would likely have been involved in vocational training at the Greenmount Avenue facility at the time of his escape, said Vernarelli, who did not have details on how Rackley was able to flee.

"This is a very unusual case," Vernarelli said. The only other similar case he could remember was that of a fugitive recaptured in rural North Carolina in 2008 after 43 years on the loose.

Rackley was charged with escape in 1980 but the charge was dropped in 1998, Maryland court records show. Vernarelli did not know why the charge was dropped.

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