Mother’s Deathbed Call Leads to Fugitive’s Recapture – 36 Years After Escape

Photo: California Department Of Corrections (1967)

After 36 years of looking over his shoulder, William Walter Asher III, now 66 years old, is finally back where he belongs—in prison. FBI agents and task force officers assigned to the Sacramento FBI Safe Streets Violent Crime Task Force arrested him without incident on Friday morning at his residence in Salida, California. The arrest team was comprised of FBI agents, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputies, and a parole agent from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

After participating with three accomplices in the 1966 robbery of a San Francisco bar, during which the bartender was shot and subsequently beaten to death, Asher, 20 years old at the time, fled to Chicago, Illinois. Following the issuance of a UFAP (unlawful flight to avoid prosecution) warrant, Asher was captured in 1967 by the FBI and returned to California where he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.

In January 1975 Asher, with the help of a non-incarcerated female accomplice, escaped from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – Growlersburg Conservation Camp #33 located in El Dorado County, California. The FBI again filed a UFAP warrant and subsequently tracked Asher to the Northwest Territories of Canada and the area in and around Hyder, Alaska. Investigators later determined Asher had assumed the name David Donald Mcfee, worked as a long-haul truck driver, married, and raised a family. He eventually separated from his wife, who was later interviewed by Canadian authorities as well as the FBI, but she was unable to provide information on the whereabouts of Asher. Interestingly enough, several years ago, one of Asher’s daughters contacted the FBI for information on the location of her father.

Although the trail went cold over the years, investigators never gave up their hunt for Asher and recently got the break they needed. Asher’s mother, Mable Welch, passed away on July 1, 2005, and, according to source information, shortly before her death she asked various family members to assist her in using the “secret” number to call “Billy.”

Photo: California Department of Corrections (2011)

With this information, FBI Sacramento collected toll records for associates of Mable Welch who were believed to have assisted her in contacting Asher. A review of multiple cell phone subscriber records revealed that two days prior to Mabel’s death, on June 29, 2005, two calls were made to a residential telephone located in Salida, California. An investigative search for persons associated with that residence revealed a Garry Donald Webb (DOB: 01/15/1946). Webb’s California driver’s license (CDL) photo was reviewed and appeared to resemble an older, thinner Asher. A certified copy of the CDL was obtained in order to compare the right thumb print to Asher’s fingerprint card and an informal examination appeared to reveal a match.

On August 19, 2011, agents and officers established surveillance on the residence in Salida, California, as well as a trucking business where “Webb” supposedly worked. At approximately 8:15 a.m., a subject resembling Welch/Asher exited the residence and was contacted by investigators. After some initial discussion, Asher admitted his true identity. It appeared to investigators that the female residing at the residence with Asher, who has been with him for 10 or more years, was unaware of his criminal history and/or fugitive status.

Asher was transported and booked into the Deuel Vocational Institute (DVI) in Tracy, California. DVI is a reception center to process inmates newly committed to state prison and also houses general population inmates.

-from press release

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