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‘Forgotten Fugitive’ Gets Four More Years Behind Bars

May 9, 1996

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) _ Convicted murderer James Ostrander, who sawed his way to freedom nearly 40 years ago, was ordered Wednesday to spend four more years in prison to atone for his crime.

Washington’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board rejected the 67-year-old Oregon man’s plea for freedom, saying he has ``done nothing to atone for this murder″ and should serve at least his minimum term, through April of the year 2000.

Ostrander, sentenced to 30 years in prison, used a hacksaw to escape from a Washington state mental hospital on Dec. 12, 1956, and eventually made his way to Oregon.

He turned himself in to Washington authorities in March, and appealed to the state board in April, saying ``I don’t want to die in prison.″

One of the victim’s relatives said Wednesday he was content with the board’s decision.

``It’s an ugly dog no matter which way you dress it. I’m not going to be happy no matter what the sentence. It won’t bring my grandfather back,″ said Joe Salle, whose grandfather, grocer Nunzio Salle of Seattle, was shot to death by a during a robbery in 1953. Police blamed the actual shooting on Ostrander’s partner, James Frazier, who spent 15 years in prison and died of lung cancer in 1976.

Ostrander’s daughter, Reella Zimmerman of Dallas, Ore., wept when she heard he wouldn’t be set free.

``You tell them people up there that unless you’re able to forgive people for your mistakes, God won’t forgive you for yours,″ she said.

Ostrander, whose real name is John Lyle Wilson, will be allowed to transfer to a prison in Oregon to be nearer to his family, the board said.

In its decision, the board noted that Ostrander had applied for Social Security benefits under a false name after his escape.

``He has done what he pleased and has not been accountable for his behavior, either for the murder or anything since,″ the board said.

The law first caught up with Ostrander in Oregon in 1964. His friends and family barraged the office of then-Gov. Mark Hatfield with letters and petitions, and the governor refused to send him back to Washington.

Ostrander stayed in Oregon and began working in construction. Then he hurt his back, and doctors urged him to move to a drier climate.

In 1991, Ostrander moved to Yuma, Ariz. He transferred his Social Security payments there and a random check by the government revealed that he was a fugitive.

Ostrander was arrested and released pending a hearing. But he fled, heading back to Oregon where he thought he still would be safe from prosecution. He wasn’t. Police showed up at a friend’s house, and Ostrander decided to surrender following an extradition request.

``I know they talk about how old he is,″ Joe Salle said. ``But my grandfather was 67 the night they killed him. They never asked him his age. They just left him in a pool of blood. They didn’t care.″

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