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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary


Press Release
March 25, 2010
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
(850) 488-0420

Fugitive Florida Inmate Recaptured in North Carolina after 27 Years on the Lam

TALLAHASSEE -- An inmate who escaped 27 years ago from the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Florida was recaptured last night (March 24, 2010) by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office in Castle Hayne, North Carolina.

Charles Lee Sparks, 69, was serving a 20-year Florida sentence for trafficking methaqualone (Quaaludes) when he escaped on June 17, 1983.  Sparks was working on a prison car wash detail when he escaped in a 1976 Pontiac LeMans that he was cleaning. At that time, he had about 18 years left to serve on his sentence.

“Our message to fugitives like Mr. Sparks remains the same -- we will never stop looking for you. I’d like to thank the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office for bringing Mr. Sparks to justice,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil.

Sparks was arrested by a law enforcement officer in New Hanover County, North Carolina. The officer had been investigating the identity theft of a man who had died in December 1983. Sparks appears to have been using the dead man’s stolen identity for some time.

Sparks’ fingerprints were identified through the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identity System and authorities notified the Department of Corrections’ Fugitive Unit of the match. Sparks is currently being held in the New Hanover County Jail.

The Florida Department of Corrections Fugitive Unit has had notable success in recapturing fugitives since its inception in January 2007, using existing staff and resources, and works aggressively with law enforcement to develop and follow leads. Since that time, 394 fugitives have been recaptured.   An inmate is eligible to be placed on the list if s/he has been missing for more than 30 days, and some cases are older (and colder) than 60 years. 

The Florida Department of Corrections has not had an inmate escape from a secure perimeter since 2006.

Charles Lee Sparks DC Photo and New Hanover County Jail(NC) photo
(Left)Charles Lee Sparks, DC#084291, in Florida Department of Corrections photo taken on 06/10/1982.
(Right) “John Doe,” New Hanover County Jail photo taken 03/24/10, identified through IAFIS as Florida fugitive Charles Lee Sparks