Fugitive caught after 36 years


A search for a fugitive from Edinburgh that spanned four decades finally came to an end in Shelby County, police said.

Until Wednesday’s arrest, Gary Lee Burton had been wanted by authorities since escaping in June 1982 from an Indiana Department of Correction facility in Clark County.

When Burton and another inmate made their getaway from the Henryville Work Release Center, he was 24.

Although the other escapee was recaptured within a week, Burton was able to evade capture for the next 36 years.

His luck finally ran out Tuesday night when Burton, now 60, was injured in an one-vehicle crash at the intersection of State Road 252 and Shelby County Road 600W, police said.

After being treated at the scene, the driver first identified himself as Terry Wayne Burton, 56, of Edinburgh, said Major Louie Koch of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.

But a computer check showed the real Terry Burton, who was Gary’s brother, had died Jan. 12 at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, Koch said.

When that discovery was brought up while the driver was being treated at Major Hospital in Shelbyville, deputies again asked him for his name, Koch said.

“He replied that his name was Gary Lee Burton,” Koch said, with the suspect adding that he did not want to lie anymore.

Two misdemeanor charges were filed Wednesday in Shelby County against Burton, false informing and operating a vehicle while intoxicated. However, he has been ordered held without bond for other counties that have long been searching for him.

Before he went missing, Burton was believed to be connected to a number of burglaries in south central Indiana.

In October 1975, Burton and seven others were charged with first-degree burglary in connection with a series of break-ins involving vacant residences.

Two separate arrests within a week took place in April 1980. Burton was one of four Edinburgh residents charged in Johnson County with possession of stolen property, possession of marijuana and visiting a common nuisance.

Within days, Burton and the same companions were charged by Shelby County authorities with two counts of burglary and two counts of theft.

The following month, an additional charge of second-degree burglary involving a separate case were filed against Burton.

Arrest records indicate he was also charged multiple times with traffic infractions and alcohol-related misdemeanors in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

On Nov. 12, 1981, Burton was sentenced in Johnson Circuit Court to serve five years with the Indiana Dept. of Correction, according to Edinburgh Deputy Police Chief David Lutz.

But at the time of his escape seven months later, the state was projecting he would be released in May, 1984.

“He only had two years to serve,” Lutz said.

The search for Burton was still going on last January, when Lutz quietly kept Terry Burton’s funeral under surveillance in case his brother showed up, the deputy police chief said.

Evidence uncovered over the 36-year search revealed Burton was often able to create areas within interior walls to hide, Lutz said.

But what prevented his capture for such a long time was an absolute refusal by family members or friends to cooperate with investigators, Lutz said.

One of the most unusual episodes that took place during the search was when Gary Lee Burton used his brother’s name to have open heart surgery performed in Shelbyville, Lutz said.

When the hospital took his brother to court to pay the hospital bill, Terry Burton removed his shirt to show he had no surgical scars, and the judge had no choice but to dismiss the case, Lutz said.

In Indiana, statutes of limitations for felonies such as burglaries are generally five years. However, legal experts say state law contains nuances and exceptions that, in some cases, could eliminate time limits. Those statutes do not pertain to crimes that Burton had already been convicted of committing prior to his escape.

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