Georgia Man Escapes Prison In 1979: Escapee Finally Located 37 Years Later

A Georgia man, Billy Burchfield, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison back in 1973, escaped from incarceration in 1979 and was just finally found 37 years later. How did the man hide from the police for 37 years?

The man, who was charged for murdering his wife after shooting her in the neck, escaped from the Jackson County Correctional Institution in 1979.

Bill Burchfield escaped the Jacskon County Correctional Institution 37 years ago and was finally caught [Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]After a tip was given to the authorities, it was revealed that Burchfield changed his identity to that of his cousin, Harold Arnold, and was living a new life in London, Kentucky.

During his new life with his new identity, Burchfield led multiple businesses and even married twice. Burchfield was a deacon at a local church, but little did everyone know that he was a prison escapee who was incarcerated for murdering his wife.

When the authorities knocked on his door on June 15, they requested fingerprints to determine his true identity.

Many who knew Burchfield after his prison escape were shocked to discover who he really was. Kathy Burchfield, who says she is the wife of his grandson, was very stunned.

“He is one of the most great and generous men you can meet or know. The most loving person you can ever meet in your lifetime.”

Martha Jones, Burchfield’s sister, had an interview with the Dalton Daily Citizen. She revealed that this wasn’t the first time Burchfield has escaped. He and two others escaped in 1975, eventually being captured in Detroit later in the year. The escape caused Burchfield to have another year added to his sentence.

Jones said that Burchfield married in the early 1980’s but eventually divorced. He re-married in the late 1980’s to a woman named Carol Shell. According to Jones, they lived a great life together. They bought a gas station and diner together.

“The police hung out there. He wasn’t living in hiding or keeping a low profile, and he never thought anything about it. He told me once, ‘If they get me, they get me. I expect it sooner or later, but at least I have had a good life and made something of myself.'”

His life was changed. Burchfield went on to be baptized and became a deacon at the church, she informed the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Bill Burchfield was baptized and became a deacon at a local church after escaping prison [Image via Shutterstock]Pastor Charles Shelton interviewed with the Dalton Daily Citizen, as well.

“He’s not the man that he was. I baptized the man 19 years ago, and he has been a model person. He had told me before he had a past, but I told him the Good Lord don’t care what you have done, but what you do now. He has been an excellent Christian and a friend to boot.”

Burchfield lived a happy life with his wife Carol until she passed away in 2006 from cancer. Jones said that Burchfield was with Carol every step of the way.

“He waited on her hand and foot. He was right by her side every inch of the way. Losing her didn’t turn him back into a criminal. He was still determined to be Bill Arnold. He had reinvented himself.”

Even before Burchfield was captured, some began to wonder about his true identity. In October 2014, a person posted on on “Arnold’s country store.”

“I have to wonder what drives people to uphold a guy that should be in prison. Are you blinded by the lite or are you ignorant to be able to see the lite?”

The tipster that finally gave away Burchfield’s identity was a family member. The family member, who remains anonymous, was arrested on drug charges and gave away Burchfield’s identity and whereabouts to the authorities in order to have charges dropped against him.


Bill Burchfield was taken back to Georgia to complete his jail time, which will end on January 15, 2026. Once his original term is up, Bill will remain in prison for an additional one year and one week as punishment for escaping from prison.

[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]