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County Jail Escapee Staich Loses Bid to Delay Return

April 23, 1986|MARK LANDSBAUM | Times Staff Writer

Convicted murderer Ivan Von Staich, who escaped from Orange County Jail on Jan. 26 and was caught a month later 3,000 miles away, will be returned to California, a Springfield, Mass., judge ruled Tuesday.

Hampden County (Mass.) Superior Court Judge William Simons denied motions to delay the extradition, despite Staich's insistence that he fears for his life if returned to the Orange County Jail, Massachusetts State Police Officer James Mitchell said.

Staich, 29, escaped with Robert Joseph Clark, 23, of Palm Springs, in a dramatic daylight jailbreak from the Orange County Jail's rooftop recreation area.

At the time, Staich was awaiting sentencing for the 1983 attempted murder of his girlfriend, Cynthia Topper, and the second-degree murder of her husband, Richard Topper, of Santa Ana.

Clark, who was facing trial on unrelated murder charges, was captured about three miles from the jail one week later. He is now awaiting trial for escape, as well as murder.

In a February jailhouse interview, Staich vowed to escape again rather than be returned to Orange County Jail.

"We have an officer watching him (Staich) around the clock, and it's been a burden to us financially," Hampden County House of Correction spokesman Gary King said Monday. "He continues to be a high security risk, and we treat him as such.

"There's been no violence," King added. But there were "rumors of escape attempts. . . . We found a note a couple of weeks ago that had (Staich's) name on it . . . in another inmate's cell. It didn't have any specifics about an escape other than a plan to escape."

Arrested While Loitering

That escape attempt, which involved three other inmates, never materialized, King said. Two have since been transferred, and one remains in the 98-year-old red-brick jail's maximum-security unit, where Staich has been held since his arrest.

Springfield police arrested Staich loitering outside a senior-citizens home on Feb. 22 and held him on $100 bail for three days before determining his true identity and learning that he was wanted for escape and murder in California.

Orange County Sheriff's Capt. Doug Storm said Tuesday that it was not known exactly when Staich will be returned to California. Mitchell cited "security reasons" in declining to say when Staich will be returned.

He added that Staich's attorney, Stephen Farrarone of Springfield, Mass., argued during extradition proceedings that a murder contract has been put out on his client in the Orange County Jail by the Aryan Brotherhood, a white-supremacy prison gang.

'Scuffle' With Deputy

In papers filed with the court, Staich maintained that "when the escape occurred, he was to include other inmates. But at the last minute (Staich) left some inmates behind. As a result they became hostile" and put out a contract on his life, Mitchell said.

In the February interview, Staich said he feared for his life at the hands of Orange County sheriff's deputies. He said the fear was based on one "scuffle" with a deputy sheriff during the more than two years he had spent in the jail.

But Mitchell said Tuesday that the problem of Staich's safety in Orange County Jail was not an issue in determining whether he should be extradited.

"If you have enemies in your life in California . . . is not what this hearing was all about," Mitchell said. "That can't be addressed here; it has to be addressed in California."

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