Although he was arrested two months ago on charges that he escaped a Michigan prison in 1972, a recent UCSB employee is still in local custody and refusing to be extradited.
Roger Crona – a longtime UCSB biological sciences machine shop employee – was using the name Jason Vonstraussenburg when he was arrested in February and charged with breaking out of a Michigan correctional facility 36 years ago. Crona, who was still working at UCSB during this time, was arrested after the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. received an anonymous tip. Although officials had expected Michigan to extradite Crona within 10 days of his Feb. 28 arrest, the alleged fugitive has refused to sign voluntary extradition forms and thus remains in Santa Barbara County Jail.
Michigan Dept. of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said that in his entire career, he had never seen someone fight extradition. Marlan said the effort is futile and that Crona is only delaying the inevitable. Regardless of whether Crona signs the voluntary extradition form, Marlan said the state of Michigan can eventually use a governor’s warrant to bring him back.
“I know it’s hard to bring him back, but we will bring him back to finish off the remainder of his prison term,” Marlan said.
In 1972, Crona was charged with altering registration plates on a car and possessing a forged registration. This landed Crona a two-and-a-half to four-year prison sentence in Michigan’s Camp Waterloo minimum-security facility. He allegedly escaped with a year and a half left on his sentence.
However, Crona’s former supervisor Bob Fletcher said his friend “Jason” does not deserve the treatment he’s receiving. Among his many concerns, Fletcher said he is afraid that Crona will lose his university pension.
“Everybody here in biology doesn’t want him to be punished unjustly,” Fletcher said. “We don’t want him to lose his retirement. Jason isn’t the 21-year-old prison escapee anymore. He’s a 62-year-old, law abiding, tax-paying citizen.”
Marlan claimed that it would be very unlikely for Crona to receive another charge for escaping but that his sentence could be brought up to the maximum if he doesn’t cooperate with the parole board.
Nevertheless, Marlan said he was surprised Crona was able to evade police for such a long time.
“When someone escapes, we dispatch officers to anyone we know they would go to,” Marlan said. “When they escape, they have nothing and need somebody to help them, and we usually know who those somebodies are. There are rare circumstances when they don’t turn to those people.”
He also said that it was also a lot easier for inmates like Crona to escape 36 years ago..
“Really, what he did was walk away,” Marlan said. “We had a much different security system back in 1972. Most of the minimum-security camps didn’t even have a fence around them. This was not an uncommon occurrence back then. What is uncommon is evading capture for 30 years.”