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Convict Captured, Despite New Face

Crime: The inmate, 71, altered her appearance to look younger after she escaped from prison. A tip from a viewer of a television episode led to the arrest.

October 05, 2002|From Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. — A 71-year-old woman who escaped from a California prison camp four years ago and disguised herself through plastic surgery was arrested Thursday after authorities received a tip.

At the time of her August 1998 escape, Astarte Rice-Davis was serving a 15-year federal sentence for embezzling from her husband's estate.

James Rice had disappeared from his Virgin Islands home in 1986. The body of the Contra Costa developer was never found and he was declared dead in 1988.

Rice-Davis, whose surgery made her appear much younger, had been featured on several television shows, including "Unsolved Mysteries," "A Current Affair" and "America's Most Wanted."

A second "Unsolved Mysteries" episode about her aired in September, said Jason Wong, task force coordinator for the U.S. Marshals Service.

On Tuesday, a Spokane informant who recognized Rice-Davis from the episode led authorities to her. She was captured early Thursday as she drove away from her house.

Her fingerprints proved she was the fugitive, Wong said.

Rice-Davis walked away from a prison camp in Dublin, Calif., near Oakland. Prison officials discovered during a routine roll call that she was missing.

Wong said authorities were still investigating what Rice-Davis had done in Spokane, where she apparently held several jobs.

Dave Wiyrick, a spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, declined to say where Rice-Davis had been living, except that it was in an affluent part of the South Hill area of Spokane.

Her escape from the prison camp wasn't her first foray as a fugitive.

According to court records, 24 hours after her husband disappeared, Rice-Davis filed a false deed conveying his St. Croix house and undeveloped lots to her, and significantly lowered the price to raise money quickly.

The next day, she held a garage sale and sold her husband's pickup, cement mixer, two 40-foot trailers, furniture and construction gear at bargain rates, records show.

After her indictment on the embezzlement charges, she fled house arrest in the Virgin Islands and lived for 18 months under a fake name in Santa Barbara.

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