ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Ending a fugitive’s 31-year run, Seldovia, Alaska, police arrested a man on the lam from Wyoming since 1981 while he ate dinner Tuesday at a restaurant in the small Kachemak Bay community.
The man, 57-year-old Joseph Welch, escaped from the Wyoming Department of Corrections’ custody when he was just 26. According to the corrections department, Welch was convicted of robbery and forgery and sent to prison in 1980.
Welch married and moved to Alaska, according to his wife, Donna, who said she had no idea her husband was a fugitive from justice.
“We’ve been married about 23 years and he’s been good that whole time,” she said Thursday. “I knew he’d gotten into some trouble before.”
The couple lived in Wasilla, and Welch worked as a construction superintendent.
According to troopers, Welch’s file with Wyoming corrections landed on the desk of a clerk in the department’s records office, who did a quick check and saw Welch had an Alaska driver’s license. Wyoming officials contacted troopers about the case, and troopers started looking for Welch on Monday.
Seldovia Police Chief Shad Haller said he found Welch at the Tidepool Cafe on Tuesday.
Donna Welch said the arrest came as a shock both to her and to her husband.
“It upset me quite a bit, because I had no idea,” she said. “It’s a big mystery to all of us, except maybe him, and he’s not being forthcoming about it. He said, ‘Oh well, it is what it is.’ ”
Wyoming authorities are making plans to have Welch flown back to the state.