Man on the run for 48 years opens up about life after prison

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SHERMAN -- For the last 48 years, Robert Stackowitz has lived a quiet life in Sherman, with a secret.

“Absolutely nobody knew,” said Stackowitz.

The 71-year-old has been living as a fugitive, unbeknownst to those in the tight-knit town who know him well. “I know everybody in Sherman,” said Stackowitz. “Everybody knows me.”

Stackowitz escaped a Georgia prison in 1968, two years into a 17-year sentence for armed robbery.

“I managed to get a plane ticket, get to Atlanta, got on a plane and came home,” said Stackowitz.

Stackowitz resettled in Connecticut, his home state. He was able to get a social security card and driver’s license, both in his own name. He made a living fixing cars and boats, and taught auto shop at Henry Abbot Tech in Danbury for a couple years.

“I got a job, I went to work, started to work, and then keeping my nose clean ever since,” said Stackowitz.

At first, Stackowitz said it was scary to think about what he was doing as a fugitive. “At first, you think about it constantly,” said Stackowitz. “Every time you see a police car behind you, you’re nervous.”

Forty-eight years later, it caught up to him.

“I applied for social security and somehow or other, they crossed it and came up with the warrant,” said Stackowitz.

On May 9, Stackowitz was arrested at his home. He now faces being extradited back to Georgia to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Doing so, he believes, would be a death sentence.

“[It would] probably kill me, to be honest with you,” said Stackowitz. “My health is not good.”

Stackowitz suffers from a host of illnesses including heart problems, circulatory issues, diabetes and bladder cancer. His lawyer said his health already confines him without the need for a jail cell. 

“This is a prison of sorts,” said Attorney Kevin Smith, referring to Stackowitz’s home. “He pretty much goes from a chair that he sleeps in, to a bathroom, to his kitchen table.”

Stackowitz said his decades without criminal behavior should prove that his criminal past is behind him. “I’ve never been in trouble, never had any problems,” said Stackowitz, talking about his time in Connecticut. “I would never do anything wrong again.”

Attorney Kevin Smith said they will be in court June 6 to fight Stackowitz’s extradition. His firm is also compiling Stackowitz’s medical records to present to both Connecticut and Georgia.