GARDNERVILLE (AP) - For 24 years, Bob Fargo lived and worked in the Carson Valley, working as a river rafting guide, plumbing store employee, print shop worker and roofer.
He says he made friends, paid his rent, lived as "a good citizen" in Minden, Gardnerville, Chichester Estates, and for the last several years in a duplex in the Gardnerville Ranchos with his girlfriend.
That lifestyle ended abruptly September 24th when Fargo was awakened by U.S. marshals knocking on the door to arrest Robert Charles Johnson, a convicted murderer who walked away from a Colorado correctional institution in 1976.
In an interview from the Douglas County Jail, Johnson, 56, said
he'd been anticipating for 31 years the day when his secret would
But he said he's a different man from the 22-year-old who shot a
stranger named Michael Albert Lucas in Colorado in 1972.
"In 32 years, I haven't got a traffic ticket," he said.
Johnson said his girlfriend and her 20-year-old son weren't
aware of his past. He also said nobody needs to fear him - although
since the arrest, his girlfriend's son, Russell Burkett, said he
hated Johnson, describing him abusive, manipulative and able to
"sell ice to an Eskimo."
Burkett also said he and his mother would talk about ways to get
Johnson out of the house, or move when Johnson was gone for the
Johnson said he escaped from a prison work farm because he was
afraid he would not survive.
"At the time, I was being coerced by inmates to bring contraband in from the outside," he said. "If I would have told anybody, I would have been killed. I just turned 22 and I took a look around and thought, 'I could walk away from here."'
Johnson said he walked to the highway and got a ride from a hay
truck driver who took him to Las Cruces, N.M. From there, another
motorist took to the West coast. He adopted the name Bob Fargo,
which he "just pulled out of the air."
The only time he was arrested was in Angels Camp, California in
1990 for being drunk.
"I thought, 'Well, this is it,"' he recalled.
He was fingerprinted under the name and phony identification of
Bob Fargo. Technology nearly 20 years ago was much different and
the fingerprint match didn't catch up until well after Johnson's
arraignment a month after his arrest.
By then, Bob Fargo was long gone.
In Carson Valley, authorities have a record of a domestic abuse
incident four years ago. Johnson and his girlfriend were told to
Since his escape, Johnson said he contacted attorneys twice
about getting his "situation" cleaned up.
"They both said that I was overcharged by the prosecution and
misrepresented in court," Johnson said. "The second attorney said
if I liked my life, I should just keep doing what I was doing. He
told me he could be disbarred for saying that."
Johnson said the man he killed was a sexual predator, although
that version differs significantly from what authorities say
According to the Rocky Mountain News, Johnson was convicted of
the 1972 murder of Michael Albert Lucas, a fellow marijuana dealer
in El Paso County, Colorado.
Deputy U.S. Marshal George Schroeder said Lucas made sexual
advances toward Johnson, who agreed to a liaison in the woods. But
it was a ruse, he said.
"When they got there, Johnson pulled out .38 caliber revolver and shot him once in the chest and twice in the head, and left him there to die," Schroeder said.
Johnson wasn't arrested for the killing until 13 months and one
day after it happened.
"I panicked," he said. "I was morally incorrect. If I had it to do over, I would go straight to the local police department, but Colorado didn't have the kind of self-defense laws they do now."
Johnson was turned in for the original offense by a roommate
looking to make a deal when he got in trouble.
He knows if he had served out his 10-15-year sentence, he would
have been released decades ago.
"That's if I would have survived it," he said. "My life definitely was in jeopardy. I acted out of desperation."
He's not sure what the future holds.
"I know I have to pay for my past. I suppose they could make a
real example out of me and treat me harshly," Johnson said.
"Once I am back, the maximum they can keep me is seven years. I
will be out at age 64. Probably my family never will be available
to me again. I'm expecting to die of cancer," he said pointing to
lesions on his skin.
He said he's not a religious man, but lives by an inner spirituality.
"It's ironic," he said. "Just the other day, before I was captured, I was thinking about the here and now and how you have to make it count. At 56 years old, I thought I pretty much knew it all."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.