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Escaped SC inmate captured after 40 years on the run

Romero was serving an 18-year sentence for armed robbery from Aiken County when he escaped on Dec. 13, 1979.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — An SCDC  inmate who escaped in 1979 was captured on Wednesday in Dover, Delaware living under an assumed name and identity. 

Jose Chico Romero, now 64, presented a fake ID card to the Dover Police on December 28. 

He was arrested, processed and released under the name Arnaldo Figueroa, but his fingerprints later came back with a match for Romero. He was apprehended in Dover without incident on New Year’s Day.

Romero was serving an 18-year sentence for armed robbery from Aiken County when he escaped on Dec. 13, 1979. Romero was assigned to a work crew in Anderson County when he escaped. 

He was being housed at the former Anderson County Stockade. The building was being used to house short-term local inmates and SCDC inmates assigned to work in the county as part of the designated facilities program.

Credit: SCDC

Romero was one of several SCDC inmates assigned to live and work there. According to SCDC, under current classification rules, he would not have qualified for this work-release program.

Romero is currently being held at Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown, Del., on a fugitive warrant and has waived extradition. He also is charged with public intoxication, loitering, third-degree criminal trespassing, second-degree forgery (four counts), criminal impersonation and being an out-of-state fugitive. 

Once returned to SCDC, Romero will be required to serve the remainder of his original sentence, which is about seven years, plus between 10-15 years for an escape conviction.

"He definitely would've been out by now and hopefully would've gone on to a productive life and take advantage of some of the programs we have at SCDC," says Bryan Stirling, SCDC director. "But he decided he wanted to walk away and now he's looking at some substantial time."

SCDC thanks the Dover Police Department and Delaware Attorney General’s office for their cooperation and diligence in apprehending and returning this criminal.

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