This article originally stated that Roger Crona died at 63. He was actually 62. Additionally, his memorial service will be held at 5:00 p.m., not 1 p.m.
One of Michigan’s most wanted fugitives, a man who evaded law enforcement for three and a half decades and worked at a UCSB lab under a false name for 14 of those years, passed away recently at the age of 62.
In 1972, Roger Lee Crona escaped from a corrections facility in Michigan. Crona, who had been serving time for several minor offenses, fled the Great Lake state and headed west, eventually settling in Goleta. Soon after, Crona assumed the identity of Jason Von Straussenburg and in 1994 he was hired as a lab technician on campus.
Last year, the law finally caught up to Crona.
In March, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. received an anonymous tip about Crona’s identity. He was arrested shortly thereafter, and following a lengthy process, Crona was extradited back to Michigan to finish out his time behind bars.
Crona’s health began to fail, however, and according to the Michigan Dept. of Corrections, he was released in December after a judge sentenced him to only two weeks in jail without phone privileges.
Tony Tosta, a close friend of “Straussenburg,” said the detention apparently aggravated Crona’s liver dysfunction – a condition he had been suffering from for some time.
“He had been suffering for several years with a liver dysfunction,” Tosta said. “His incarceration exacerbated the situation. Nerves played a great part in it.”
Tosta said the Michigan Dept. of Corrections did not want to deal with Crona’s illness. When the court released him, Tosta said, they essentially allowed him to “go die on his own doorstep.”
“They felt it was too expensive to keep him and take care of him,” Tosta said. “Their hearts shrank to the size of a pea, and they let him go.”
The State of Michigan allowed Crona to return to Santa Barbara on Dec. 10, and upon arrival, Crona required immediate hospital care due to the severity of his condition. He spent his last days under the care of his family and Tosta.
He died on Jan. 29.
Friends and co-workers say the “fugitive” was friendly and law abiding.
“He was a nice guy with kind of a quirky sense of humor,” project scientist Eileen Hamilton said last year. “He was friendly and liked to chat.”
When he was arrested a year ago, the campus community was shocked.
“Everybody here in biology doesn’t want him to be punished unjustly,” UCSB Bob Fletcher said at the time. “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.”
A memorial service will be held March 21 at 5 p.m. on West Campus at the Cliff House.