Woman Arrested After 31 Years On the Lam

Escaped in 1979 While Serving Two-Year Sentence for Credit Card Fraud

A woman who had escaped the grasp of authorities for more than three decades after escaping from the California Institution for Women was arrested after Santa Barbara police were tipped off Tuesday.

Nancy Garces, now 56, was booked at the women-only state facility in San Bernardino County on February 16, 1979, for a two-year sentence for forging a credit card, and escaped a few months later. An evening count at the facility showed a discrepancy, and authorities eventually determined Garces was not accounted for. She had been seen in the visiting room, but had not returned to her housing unit. “It was determined that she went directly to her escape point and was able scale a fence in the maintenance compound,” according to a release from the California Department of Corrections. Search teams were deployed, but Garces was never tracked down.

Officials say Garces, who will head back to a state facility this week, may face additional charges. “We would like to commend the Santa Barbara Police Department for its prompt and efficient action in apprehending the escaped felon Nancy Garces,” said Michael Ruff, special agent in charge for CDCR’s Office of Correctional Safety, Special Service Unit.

According to officials, more than 99 percent of escapees from California state prisons have been subsequently arrested since 1977. “This is a message to all at-large felons that California law enforcement agents never give up when searching for fugitives,” Ruff said.

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