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Man Who Took Big Cat to Tavern Was Oregon Fugitive, Police Say

September 20, 1985

HERKIMER, N.Y. (AP) _ A circus worker arrested for bringing a leopard into a tavern here turned out to be a fugitive from Oregon, where he was serving a prison term for killing his father, state police say.

Vincent Whatley, 21, escaped from the State Correctional Institution in Salem, Ore., last October, state police said. He was arraigned before Herkimer Town Justice John Chvatal on Thursday and charged with being a fugitive from justice.

Whatley was arrested Sept. 3 and charged with endangering the public and resisting arrest after he allegedly brought a black leopard from the Ford Brothers Circus, where he worked, into the Hilltop Inn in East Herkimer.

He told police his name was Kevin Cramer, but State Police Investigator Robert Dibble said authorities, suspicious at the man’s lack of identification, checked his fingerprints with the FBI and discovered he was Whatley.

Whatley was serving a 10-year sentence in Oregon for first-degree manslaughter in the 1983 death of his father, authorities said. The Statesman- Journal in Salem reported that Whatley had been released from prison on a temporary leave in anticipation of parole, and was accused of failing to report to his parole officer. Police listed the absence as a prison escape.

Whatley was being held without bail in the Herkimer County Jail. Chvatal said he expected an extradition hearing to be scheduled shortly.

Chvatal said the charges against Whatley from the leopard incident are pending.

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