PORTLAND, Ore. - After 14 years as a fugitive, David Tankersley, recently of Juneau, gave up his freedom for love.
Tankersley, 49, skipped out on a temporary release from an Oregon prison in 1987. He moved to Alaska, got a job at an electrical supplies plant and fell in love with a former chef at the Alaska Governor's Mansion.
But he was arrested and re-admitted to the Oregon prison system Wednesday after he tried to drive from Alaska to meet his girlfriend in Arizona. Tankersley must serve the remaining 106 days of his sentence for burglary and theft before he can marry his sweetheart, Carol Embleton, prison officials said.
In the 1980s, Oregon sometimes fell back on temporary releases to make room for more serious offenders. Tankersley, who was part of such an arrangement, was supposed to show up every night at a Salem prison after a day spent looking for work.
On April 7, 1987, he left and didn't come back. He was in Alaska within weeks, picked up on a new burglary charge in June 1987 and again for theft in 1994.
Oregon knew about those charges but didn't claim him.
"The governor's office didn't have the funds at the time to bring him back," said Teri Rice, a fugitive inspector who hunts escapees.
Tankersley was paroled on the Alaska charges. By the late 1990s, he worked at Delta Alaska Wholesale, an electrical supplies plant in Juneau.
"He's been an absolute gentleman, a hard worker, a prince of a man," said owner Ken Williamson.
In the three years he worked at the plant, Tankersley became Williamson's top guy, running the store. In 1998, he met Embleton, who was known as Carol Wyatt when she cooked for Alaska Govs. Walter Hickel and Tony Knowles between 1991 and 1995.
When Embleton decided to move to Arizona, Tankersley asked Oregon for leniency so he could drive through the state to reunite with his girlfriend.
"They wrote back and said, 'If you come through here, we're going to nail you,' " Embleton said. "He said, 'I'm going to brave it because I want to be with you.' "
Tankersley didn't get far. Authorities arrested him as he entered Washington on a ferry from Juneau. He spent the weekend in jail in Bellingham, Wash. His former boss shelled out $250 for a lawyer. Tankersley paid the $1,000 bail and was ordered to get to Oregon in 48 hours and turn himself in.
But Oregon officials took the offensive and were waiting for him when he arrived at his brother's home in Beaverton on Tuesday.
"He owes 106 days on his prison term," said Diane Rea, chairwoman of the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision. "If he'd have stuck around another 106 days, he'd have paroled in '87 and this case would be long behind him."
Embleton says Tankersley's arrest shocked and worried her.
"Why didn't they come and get him?" she asked. "They disrupt his new life, his forward motion, his marriage."
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