William Walter Asher III, 2001
William Walter Asher III, 1967
William Walter Asher III, 2011
SALIDA, CA - A convicted murderer who avoided capture after escaping from an El Dorado County inmate work crew 36 years ago has been found and caught in Salida in Stanislaus County, the FBI says.
William Walter Asher III, 66, was arrested last Friday at his home where he went under by the name Garry Donald Webb. Asher was convicted along with three others of a 1966 robbery of a San Francisco bar in which the bartender was shot and beaten to death. Asher, then 20, fled to Chicago where he was apprehended and brought back to California to be tried for murder. After being found guilty, Asher was sentenced to life in prison.
In January, 1975, with the help of a female accomplice, Asher escaped from the Growlersburg Conservation Camp #33 in El Dorado County operated by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The FBI tracked him to Canada and in and around Hyder, Alaska. He changed his name to David Donald Mcfee, married, had a family and worked on the road as a long-haul truck driver.
In time, Asher/Mcfee and his wife separated and his family and the FBI lost track of him.
The hunt for Asher was re-energized when the FBI recently got a tip from a source that Asher's mother, Mable Welch, who passed away on July 1, 2005,, asked family to help her to use the "secret" number to call "Billy" shortly before her death.
Investigators examined cellphone call records of Welch's associates and found that two days before she died, two calls were placed to a number in Salida. It was learned a Garry Donald Webb, 66, lived there. Webb's California driver's license photo was studied and showed a resemblance to an older, thinner Asher. The right thumb print on the CDL was compared to Asher's fingerprint card and also appeared to match.
Asher/Webb's home and trucking business where he worked were put under surveillance. Agents made their move Friday morning, engaging Asher/Webb into conversation and soon hearing from the man himself that he was Asher.
The FBI said the woman Asher had been with for the last 27 years appeared to not know about his criminal background and his status as a fugitive.
"She was really surprised. She had no idea the person she had been with for the past 27 years was somebody completely different," said FBI agent Daniel Rodriguez who helped arrest Asher last week.
Neighbors expressed shock at Asher's arrest. "He was a good guy. I can't say anything bad about him," said next door neighbor Betty Munoz.
Asher was initially taken into custody at Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy but has since been transfered to the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown.