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May 7, 2008 -- Detroit News (US)

Rally For Freedom: Strangers Join Drive Seeking Commutation For Escapee

By Francis X. Donnelly, Detroit News

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Supporters of a former Saginaw woman who was a fugitive for 32 years are waging an Internet-fueled campaign to prevent her from serving the rest of her prison sentence.

Friends and family of Susan LeFevre have created several Web sites and pages to rally support, are distributing an electronic petition to have her sentence commuted by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and asking people around the country to e-mail the governor.

LeFevre, who wants to be released immediately, is looking for another attorney after the current one told her she was likely to spend several years in prison.

"It's been 30 years since I've had anything to do with this," LeFevre said Tuesday about her conviction for selling heroin. "I could be gone from my family for five years."

Even people with no connection to the now-famous fugitive are getting into the act.

A retired couple from Williamston, east of Lansing, have started to attract support for her. Kathy and Jerry Morse, who have never met LeFevre, said the financially ailing state is wasting money imprisoning someone who's already rehabilitated.

"We cannot believe our law enforcement officers are spending our state dollars going after Susan LeFevre," they said on the site.

LeFevre, 53, who is being held in a San Diego jail, has waived extradition and will be brought to Michigan within a week, a state official said.

In 1976, she escaped from a Northville prison after serving a year for selling $300 of heroin to an undercover state trooper twice. When she was captured earlier this month, she was a mother of three living in a prosperous San Diego suburb.

LeFevre hired attorney Paul Denenfeld of Grand Rapids but has disagreed with him over strategy, she said. He wants to wait several months before asking Granholm for clemency but LeFevre wants to broach the subject immediately.

LeFevre said her family has contacted several of the state's top criminal attorneys about taking her case.

Web sites and pages created by LeFevre's supporters exhort readers to sign an electronic petition requesting that her sentence be commuted. It received 124 signatures in the first two days.

The Governor's Office also has received hundreds of e-mails supporting LeFevre, said Liz Boyd, the governor's spokeswoman.

Despite the strong public support, Boyd said the governor will treat the clemency request like any other.

"There is a process and it begins with the Parole Board," she said. "They'll review it and make a recommendation to the governor."

Since becoming governor in 2003, Granholm has commuted 20 sentences, Boyd said. Two were drug-related cases while the others were for inmates who were seriously ill or dying.

The governor receives hundreds if not a thousand clemency requests a year, she said.

The San Diego prison holding LeFevre has stopped allowing reporters to visit her, but she has continued doing phone interviews with newspaper and TV stations in Michigan and California.

Some people have counseled her not to argue her case in public but she says she feels strongly about countering how law enforcement officials described her involvement with drugs.

Michigan State Police had described her as a major drug dealer but LeFevre said her involvement was much smaller.

"I can't believe they said that stuff," she said. "It's disturbing."

Among supporters is longtime friend, Anna Marie Leyenaar, 49, of Mission Viejo, Calif.

On Sunday Leyenaar started a Web page on Craiglist that supports LeFevre.

"I can't believe she had to live this way," Leyenaar said about her friend's harboring of a 32-year-old secret. "It's just a sad, sad thing."

You can reach Francis X. Donnelly at (313) 223-4186 or

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