Local woman asks former escaped convict for help

Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 21:14:26-05

DEL MAR, Calif. - A Santee woman has turned to an escaped convict for help freeing her own son from prison.

Liz Stewart said her son's 70-year prison sentence is excessive and she wants Susan Walsh to help.

Jeremy Stewart, 25, was sentenced to 70 years without parole after he was convicted a third time for breaking into homes.

"I think it was to pay for his [drug] addiction," said Liz Stewart.

Stewart doesn't get parole because of California's Three Strikes law.

"I believe Jeremy deserved to do some time, but not a death term sentence," said his mother. "He's going to die in prison. I'll be 104 before my son's released."

Jeremy's daughter will be 70.

"He was wrong, but it was non-violent. Seventy years?" exclaimed Stewart.

She said California's prison system is broken and she wants to fix it, starting with her son.

"I started reaching out to groups for help and one of the first persons that came to mind was Marie," Liz said, sitting next to Walsh.

"It really tears apart your family to have something like this happen," said Walsh.

Marie Walsh, who now goes by Susan Walsh, became an advocate for people like Jeremy six years ago after she was released from a Michigan prison.

Walsh's own saga was secret for decades. Her real name is Susan Lefevre, and in 1975, she was convicted and sentenced to 10 to 20 years in jail on a drug charge in Michigan.

In early 1976, she hopped the jail's fence, changed her name and moved to California. There, Walsh got married, started a family and lived a charmed and crime-free life in Del Mar.

"I remember that for 30 years, which is most of my life, I had to worry about [getting caught]," said Walsh.

U.S. Marshals finally tracked her down in 2008, arrested her and sent her back to a Michigan prison.

Walsh was paroled in 2009, but she said the damage was done.

"I wasn't able to hold on to most of the life that I had," she said.

She's living with one of her daughters in a Del Mar condo, but added she's working on her relationship with her husband and her other two adult children.

"I think it was almost harder on them," said Walsh.

Walsh said she wanted to help others like her when she was paroled. That's how she met Liz Stewart.

"She's one of my angels," said Stewart.

Together they worked on a petition to get Jeremy's sentence reduced to only 20 years.

"I cannot live with the idea that my son is going to die in prison for property theft," said Stewart.

The petition got 54,000 signatures and now sits on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

Stewart hopes it could start changing California's Three Strikes law.

"I think with time we are winning," she said.