“Normal people—those are the folks you don’t know very well.” That saying applies in spades to Carmel Valley wife and mom Marie Walsh, formerly Susan LeFevre.
Who knew that Marie was once Sue in Saginaw, Michigan—or that in 1975 she’d been sent to prison for selling heroin? Who knew she escaped the next year (drastically shortening her stiff 10- to 20-year sentence) then headed west to reinvent herself?
Even Walsh’s husband of twenty-three years was largely unaware of this skeleton in his wife’s closet—a secret that involved a fake Social Security number, a driver’s license that hadn’t been renewed since 1999, alienation from relatives, and a low-grade fear of discovery that continued till the day Marie’s past finally caught up with her.
For those who knew only Marie, her confinement in Santee’s detention facility seems pointless. Why should a 53-year-old wife and mother of three children be put behind bars for a crime that was committed a lifetime ago? What good will it do? And why saddle the state with the cost of an inmate with a thirty-year track record of good behavior?
Friends and neighbors who feel this way have organized an appeal to Michigan’s governor for clemency. An anonymous tipster who knew Marie as Sue, however, employed that knowledge, like the mythical Furies, to avenge a breach of justice.
That person was probably closer to the 19-year-old defendant who, in a court transcript, appears to have been willing and able to sell five spoons of heroin to a longhaired undercover agent. The young woman in that transcript wasn’t, as Walsh implied in a TV interview, a pot-smoking bystander to a friend’s “morphine” transaction. Instead, as the stammering defendant told Judge Joseph McDonald in 1974, “We just did it together.”
Michigan authorities also point to records that indicate a much deeper involvement in drug trafficking than Walsh acknowledges. Those accusations bring into view dozens or hundreds of “victims” that were part of the crime wave that gripped Saginaw in the mid-70s.
Richard Anderson, who participated in the deal for which LeFevre was busted, received the same sentence as she did but was paroled after two years. He was shot dead in 1981.
As I listened to a jailed Marie Walsh speaking to a TV journalist, thirty-two years of self-justification were exposed: “It was the 70’s.” “I was a child.” The Rolling Stones made it seem glamorous. I tried to settle this, but lawyers took the money and did nothing. They promised me a deal. (Judge McDonald made it clear in the transcript that there could be no promises.)
One statement came close to hitting the right tone: “Escaping is a never-ending sentence.” Unfortunately, that sentence includes the husband and family she deceived for so many years. Forthright acknowledgment of that inescapable fact would make it easier to give Sue LeFevre legal credit for turning her life around.