A former inmate at the federal minimum security prison camp on this Florida Panhandle base has turned himself in 18 years after allegedly walking away from a work detail.
Hernando Hennessy-Rossi, who was 39 when he vanished, surrendered in Houston after learning authorities finally were hot on his trail, said Dominic Guadagnoli, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Pensacola.
Hennessy-Rossi had served only about four months of a five-year sentence for smuggling 1.9 kilograms of cocaine. He had been arrested in January 1987 after the cocaine was discovered during a routine customs inspection at Miami International Airport, said Guadagnoli.
An initial search after Hennessy-Rossi disappeared from Eglin focused on his native Colombia but those leads turned cold.
Marshals in Pensacola and Houston recently began following new leads and interviewed family members, Guadagnoli said.
"Every once in a while, you run across something that looks interesting and you go after it," he said. "We don't forget about these cases. We have cases that are 20 or 30 years old and they don't go away."
Hennessy-Rossi on Thursday was awaiting extradition back to Florida, where he will face an escape charge, Guadagnoli said. He was unsure if the suspect had a lawyer. No bail is possible because he remains under sentence for the cocaine conviction. Once an Eglin escapee is caught, he is assigned to a higher security prison.