New details regarding last week’s arrest of a long-time UCSB faculty member continue to shed light on a story that has surprised and baffled many in the university community.
The biological sciences technician recognized and employed by UCSB as Jason Von Straussenberg was arrested last Friday after the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. received an anonymous tip alleging that he was actually Roger Lee Crona – a convict who reportedly escaped from a Michigan Dept. of Corrections facility in 1972. Sheriff’s Dept. detectives claim forensic evidence proves that Von Straussenburg is Crona.
According to records from the Michigan Dept. of Corrections, Crona served prison time on two occasions in that state. Crona was first held for nearly five years, beginning in 1967, on charges of possession of stolen property and was later sentenced to serve two and a half years in prison for altered registration and altered license plates. Crona escaped and fled the state with only a year and seven months left in his sentence.
John Cordell, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said Crona’s alleged escape from the state’s minimum-security Camp Waterloo facility in June of 1972 was probably not difficult.
“Back then, the camp had a single metal fence around the prisoners, and it’s our guess that he probably just walked away,” Cordell said. “We don’t think it was an intricate escape plan. Those facilities just weren’t made for high-risk escape prisoners.”
According to Cordell, Michigan Corrections Dept. officials are actively working to extradite the suspect, after which a state prosecutor will review his records from the last three and a half decades to see if they contain any other criminal activity. A separate trial will then decide, based on those findings, whether he will serve any extra time in addition to the remainder of his 1971 sentence.
“If there’s nothing else out there [in his records to warrant further prosecution], then he won’t serve more than the one year, seven months,” Cordell said.
For now, however, the extradition process is being delayed by Von Straussenberg’s refusal to sign extradition forms. Without his consent, Cordell said, Michigan prosecutors must apply for a governor’s warrant to move him back to the state.
“There is no benefit to him in not cooperating,” Cordell said. “It will only prolong the process … We are going to bring him back eventually … We are interested in bringing all fugitives from the state of Michigan to justice.”
According to the Michigan Dept. of Corrections, Crona has also gone by the aliases “Edward Jason Jackson” and “Gordon Mack Lamb.” The anonymous informant told the County Sheriff’s Dept. that Crona allegedly moved to the Goleta area several years ago.
Since gaining employment at the university, colleagues said Von Straussenberg has become widely recognized and well liked within the biological sciences, where he worked as a technology mechanic under Supervisor Bob Fletcher.
Project scientist Eileen Hamilton, who has worked at the university for several decades, said she has known Von Straussenberg since he first began working at the university. She said he was an upbeat, visible member of the department.
“He was a nice guy with kind of a quirky sense of humor,” Hamilton said. “He was friendly and liked to chat. I remember when he was dating and had asked someone to marry him. He was very excited and would talk about those things with us. I don’t know the whole story, of course, but since he’s been here, he seems to have led a perfectly normal life and been an honest, hardworking person.”