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1975 Escapee Found

October 27, 2016

By DOC Communications

Head shot of Curtis Hoffman

Curtis Hoffman, Local Business Advisor, WCCW See photo gallery...

GIG HARBOR – Unanswered questions bug Curtis Hoffman, like the case of an inmate who walked away from a Washington Department of Corrections work release site more than 40 years ago, and never returned.

Jane Scherman was nearing the end of a three-year sentence for a King County forgery conviction when she was granted furlough from a work release unit in 1975 and didn’t come back. Years passed and she wasn’t found, which meant there was an unclosed file in department records.

Hoffman, who’s worked for the department more than 30 years, ran across the case when he worked as a business manager at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in the 1990s. “I’m the type of person, where if there’s something wrong in the record I just like to get it fixed. I want it corrected,” he said.

A family historian and genealogist in his spare time, Hoffman figured it would be easy to determine what happened to her because he had the inmate’s date of birth and Social Security number. But, although Social Security was able to confirm the inmate died back in 1985, Hoffman could not find out where she died. And he needed to get a death certificate to close the file.

Years passed and upon his return from McNeil Island Corrections Center in 2011, the open file still bothered Hoffman. “Every couple of years I’d go and see what I could find. A lot of people have been indexing public records (on the Internet). So it’s become easier to find people,” he said.

Finally, in June 2016, he found two Washington state marriage certificates that could be the person he was looking for, using data bases at a King County library.

With that information in hand, Hoffman was able to narrow his list of suspects down to five possible people. One result had the first name, correct birth date and social security number, and the death date in King County seemed reasonable. But the last name was Christophers.

So Hoffman went to the Secretary of State’s Digital Archives, inserted “Christophers” – and there she was. Now a death certificate is on its way and the record will soon be closed.

“She escaped in 1975,” he said. “She died in 1985, so why couldn’t we find her records and close the file? It was just sitting out there, somewhere. I wanted to accomplish that before I retired.”

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