Billy Burchfield in an undated photo, was arrested in Kentucky. Police in Georgia say he escaped a prison there in 1979 and has been in hiding under an alias for the last 37 years. AP photo
It's been nearly 40 years since a North Georgia man was convicted of killing his wife. He is now back behind bars. Police say the Dalton fugitive had been living a double life since 1979, when he escaped from prison and took on his cousin's name.
Neighbors in one Laurel County community were shocked to learn their neighbor Harold Arnold was actually Billy Burchfield, a man convicted of shooting and killing his wife in Whitfield County. Neighbors are in disbelief learning the man living next door is a fugitive of nearly 40 years. “Shocked, surprised. Never seen anything out of the man. He always been kind and considerate as far as I know,” said one neighbor.
Billy Burchfield was in the beginning of a 16-year prison sentence for shooting and killing his wife when he escaped the Jackson County Correctional Facility in Georgia in 1979. A tip led officers to a 67-year-old man living in London, Kentucky by the name of Harold Arnold. The name Harold Arnold matches Burchfield’s dead cousin. “He is very well thought of in this community and helped a lot of people out. Very generous, successful businessman,” said Jason Scott Kincer.
Our NBC affiliate in Lexington reports Burchfield operated Arnold’s Place, a gas station and deli. He also worked in construction, and became a deacon for his church. Neighbors believe he was trying to turn his life around. “Why would he live in the life he has since he's been here, if he wasn't remorseful,” said the neighbor.
Burchfield's friend and attorney said he doesn't know what happened 37 years ago but he plans to stand with him and show support. “I don't know all the facts and specifics down there but I know the Bill that I know here and he is someone that has been in my home, someone I trust,” said Kincer.
Burchfield agreed to fingerprinting, which matched, but he still denied he is a fugitive. Channel 3 obtained prison records that show this was not his first escape. This time he will start a new life again, behind bars in Jackson County, Georgia.
LONDON, KY (AP) - A man who police say escaped from a Georgia prison in 1979 and eluded authorities for nearly four decades has been arrested in eastern Kentucky.
Police in Laurel County say 67-year-old Billy Burchfield was living under an assumed name, Harold Arnold, which he took from a cousin who had died. Burchfield was serving a 16-year sentence for manslaughter when he escaped 37 years ago.
Laurel County Sheriff's spokesman Gilbert Acciardo said a tip from law enforcement in Jackson County, Georgia, led them to the suspect.
Detectives went to a house in Laurel County on Wednesday night and spoke with Burchfield, who submitted to fingerprinting. Kentucky State Police and FBI officials used the prints to confirm his identity.
Police said Burchfield kept a low profile and had no criminal record in Kentucky.
"Probably somebody like that is going to fly under the radar," Acciardo said. "You (would) have to keep your nose extremely clean and apparently that's what he's done."
When he was approached by police on Wednesday night, he denied he was a fugitive and continued to deny it after being fingerprinted, Acciardo said.
"He's saying he's not that person," Acciardo said.
No one answered the phone Thursday at a phone number listed at the London, Kentucky, address where Burchfield was living as Harold Arnold.
Burchfield is being held in Kentucky as a fugitive until he is extradited back to Georgia, Acciardo said.
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