Book Review by Heidi Simmons
A Tale of Two Lives: The Susan LeFevre Fugitive Story by Marie S. Walsh aka Susan LeFevre (Orange Peel Press)
American teens in the 1970s can tell you about the drug culture of that time. Whether they participated socially or used heavily, access to elicit substances was just a heartbeat away. They may not have inhaled but certainly they knew someone who had.
In the case of Susan LeFevre she used drugs socially and sometimes to self-medicate for the emotional pain of having an abusive mother whom she could not please no matter how hard she tried to be a good and perfect daughter. Raised in a respectable, conservative, middle-class Catholic home, LeFevre was thrown out of the house while still in high school for hanging around the “wrong types.”
LeFevre struggled to make ends meet. She drove a crappy car, worked hard and lived with several roommates. A pretty, blue-eyed blond, she rarely had to purchase drugs. Friends, and friends of friends, were constantly dropping by to party, sometimes bringing drugs and leaving small quantities. Tiring of that scene and wanting to get her life back on track, she barrowed money from her parents, enrolled in community college and moved to an apartment out of town telling no one her address but her mother.
When a druggie she barely knew showed up at her place, she wondered how he found her. He asked if she had drugs to sell or if she knew where he could purchase drugs. LeFevre said she had no drugs, had stopped using and no longer hung around that crowd. She reluctantly smoked a joint with him and then they went for pizza.
At the pizza place, Lefevre was ambushed and arrested for being a drug “kingpin.” It was a set up. The police bullied and intimidated her to give them names of other drug dealers. She refused because she truly did not know. The prosecutor said if she pleaded guilty she would get one-year probation. Her defense attorney, her uncle (a lawyer with ties to the district attorney’s office), and parents encouraged her to take the deal. Nineteen years old, with no previous record of any kind, Susan LeFevre was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.
After a year in prison, with no contact or support from her family, LeFevre’s grandfather came to visit. He encouraged her to escape and said he would help. He knew she was going to be locked up for the full 20 years and realized the conditions would only get worse. A week later, LeFevre scaled a barbed wire fence and escaped prison. Three days after that, she was in California starting her new life.
Susan LeFevre changed her name and eventually married. She became “Marie S. Walsh,” had three children and to all appearance was a typical, suburban soccer mom. She had a good life. She rode horses, played tennis and regularly met for bridge with the neighborhood women. Marie volunteered for community charities, was a law-abiding citizen, attentive wife and dedicated mom. No one — including her family — knew of her past. It was a secret she could not, and would not tell.
Thirty-three years into an almost idyllic life, Michigan corrections caught up to Marie Walsh now in her 50s. With a Lexus in the driveway and her children in their bedrooms, Susan LeFevre aka Marie Walsh was arrested at her cul-de-sac home with an ocean view and sent back to a smothering Michigan prison. Over a year later, she was released on probation with the help of the state’s female governor.
A Tale of Two Lives: The Susan LeFevre Fugitive Story is less about her life as a fugitive and more about her life as a prisoner in the horrendous Michigan prison system. Her book is a nightmare of corruption, injustice and sadistic behavior. Walsh/LeFevre says, “A huge majority (inmates) had made relatively trivial bad choices that weren’t a threat to anyone but themselves. Most were not so different than I.” “It (prison system) was a manufacturing plant for corruption. Relevant educational classes and programs were scarce, or hobbling along until the next budget cuts eliminated them entirely in favor of building more prisons and hiring more guards.”
Walsh does not hold back her contempt for the corrupt prison industry. She says the prison union is so powerful that even the warden and elected officials won’t challenge the cruel conduct towards inmates. Walsh states that today more than 70% of inmates return to prison within three years of leaving and, in most cases, in far worse condition than when they went in.
Susan LeFevre paid a price and Marie Walsh suffered the consequences of a tried and convicted criminal. A Tale of Two Lives: The Susan LeFevre Fugitive Story is a self-published book that, beyond its grammatical errors, typos and formatting problems, is an intense and compelling narrative with first-hand insight into the billion-dollar taxpayer funded prison industry. It makes you realize that the free and easy days of the 70’s drug culture turned ugly on the heels of Nixon’s hi-profile, dubious ”drug war.”