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Police tipped off as Arkansas escapee visited mom; police trying to learn where he hid for 32 years

by Bill Bowden | June 27, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.
Booking photos for Steven Dishman dated Dec. 26, 1984 (left) and June, 25, 2017.

A prison escapee who had been on the lam for 32 years was visiting his elderly mother in Springdale when police got a tip that he was there.

While neighbors were at church on Sunday, police converged on the duplex on McMillan Drive and arrested Steven Dishman.

Dishman, 60, had walked off a Little Rock work-release job site in 1985 and eluded capture for more than three decades.

The Arkansas State Police is trying to determine where Dishman has been all that time, said Trooper Liz Chapman, a spokesman for the state police.

[INTERACTIVE: Compare Dishman's 1984, 2017 mug shots]

Dishman's mother, Shirley Jones, told The Associated Press that he had been living in south Arkansas and was visiting her in Springdale when he was arrested Sunday.

"He's a good person" and "very creative," she said.

Arther Galloway, a Freewill Baptist minister who lives across McMillan Drive from Jones, said he had seen Dishman around his mother's duplex for the past week or two. He figured Dishman was trying to help care for his mother, who has health issues.

"I've seen him set out on the front porch there two or three times but hardly nothing outside," Galloway said.

Galloway, who was at church when the arrest took place, said Dishman walks as though he also has health issues.

State police got a tip from someone who met Dishman around 1990, saying he was in Springdale, Chapman wrote in an email.

Dishman was arrested without incident at about 11:35 a.m. at a residence on McMillan Drive, according to a news release from the Springdale Police Department, which assisted state police.

State police have begun questioning people who may have known Dishman by another name, Chapman said.

Dishman, a minimum-security inmate at the Benton Work Release Center, was reported missing from his Little Rock job site about 8 a.m. on May 28, 1985, according to an article the following day in the Arkansas Gazette. David White, a prison spokesman at the time, said Dishman was dropped off at the Little Rock construction site that morning, but his supervisor reported him missing shortly afterward.

Dishman was believed to be on foot and unarmed, according to a May 29, 1985, article in the Arkansas Democrat.

Earlier that year, he was held at Arkansas' Cummins and Wrightsville prison units, Chapman said.

In 1984, Dishman was sentenced to seven years in prison for the 1979 burglary of The Original Muskrat Roadhouse & Saloon in Fayetteville. Between $1,100 and $1,200 was reported missing, according to an article in the Northwest Arkansas Times.

Quinn LaFargue, 68, of Davie, Fla., owned the Muskrat Roadhouse and remembers the robbery.

LaFargue said a woman accosted him when he arrived at about 9 a.m. to open the restaurant, asking questions and distracting him from going inside.

"When I came inside, that's when I noticed the cash register at the front had been jimmied open," LaFargue said. "I thought, 'Holy smokes, this doesn't look right.'"

He said someone had apparently crawled in through a high window and left the back door wide open when departing. The restaurant was located on the southwest corner of College Avenue and Sycamore Street.

LaFargue said he had forgotten what happened in the robbery case and was surprised to hear the convicted criminal had been on the loose for 32 years.

"That was a cold case and it got hot again," said LaFargue, who is originally from DeWitt.

According to Washington County Circuit Court records, Dishman was also convicted of theft of property in 1976 for stealing a citizens band radio from N.R. Sullivan of Springdale. Dishman was sentenced to a year in prison in that case.

In both criminal cases, Dishman entered a guilty plea before going to trial. He was listed as Steve Lee Dishman in the 1976 case and Steven Lee Dishman in the 1979 case.

A Saline County Circuit Court filing states an escape charge against Dishman was dismissed in 1994. The case was "nol prossed" because of the passage of time, according to the Oct. 4, 1994, court filing.

Solomon Graves, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Correction, said the state police will investigate the 1985 escape and determine whether any charges will be filed regarding it.

"He served just under six months of his 1984 conviction, so he owes the state the balance of that," Graves said.

Dishman was still sought by the Department of Correction as an escapee at the time of his arrest, Graves said.

If he hadn't escaped, Dishman would have been eligible for parole in December 1987, Chapman said. His original discharge date was June 28, 1991.

Dishman is currently being held at the Varner prison unit in Grady.

Shirley Jones didn't return calls from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Monday.

Metro on 06/27/2017

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