Fugitive caught in 10-year chase

Howard officer tracks felon to Arizona

February 14, 2007|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,Sun reporter

A 10-year search for a Maryland fugitive ended in Arizona after a Howard County sheriff's investigator checking computer databases noticed that the man had recently obtained a driver's license there.

Gilbert Blackman, 57, was arrested by Phoenix police Thursday, bringing to a close the longest-running fugitive search being conducted by the Howard County Sheriff's Office, Sgt. Charles Gable said yesterday.

Blackman, formerly of the 6900 block of Knighthood Lane in Columbia, had been wanted in Maryland since 1996, when he disappeared after being charged with violating the terms of his probation. He had been convicted in 1983 of felony child abuse in the rape of a girl.

He has been charged in Arizona as a fugitive from justice, and Howard County officials said yesterday they were making arrangements to extradite him to Maryland.

Blackman served six months in prison after being sentenced to a term of 10 years, with 9 1/2 years suspended. After his release, he failed to complete his probation, according to the Howard County state's attorney's office. A warrant was issued for Blackman's arrest in 1996 after he didn't report to his probation officer or attend court-ordered psychological counseling, according to court records.

Sgt. Joel Tranter, a Phoenix police spokesman, said Blackman was arrested there without incident at a house where he had been living for a brief time.

Gable said Blackman was using his own name and other identification information while living in Arizona.

In 2004, the sheriff's office located Blackman in Oklahoma after he had filed a civil suit against his employer, Gable said. But Blackman disappeared before Howard officials could arrange with Oklahoma police to arrest him.

"We knew he was alive in 2004; it was just a matter of locating some fresh information," Gable said.

Blackman's decade-long flight from authorities is unusual, he said.

Gable said the sheriff's office uses several computer data bases to track personal identification records activity. The office has an open warrant list of about 260 people, he said. Last year, the sheriff's office brought back 29 fugitives who fled to other states, he said.

"You hope that somewhere down the road, they make a mistake and rent something or apply for something," Gable said. "A lot of this is also knowing who the people are associated with. Sometimes the person doesn't do anything but mooch on a relative or a girlfriend."

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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