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Fugitive Nabbed After His Story Appears On TV Show

February 15, 1989 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A fugitive who had been convicted of attempted murder and bank robbery was arrested in California less than a week after he was the subject of the TV show ″Unsolved Mysteries,″ the U.S. Marshals Service announced Wednesday.

Jean Marie Gagnon, 35, a native of Montreal who was featured Feb. 8 on the NBC program, was arrested Tuesday by California Highway Patrol officers during a traffic stop near Orland in northern California, the marshals service said.

Gagnon insisted when he was arrested that his name was Jean Pierre Dupont, said Bill Dempsey of the marshals service, but fingerprinting checks Wednesday morning confirmed his identity. He did not resist arrest and was not armed, although officers were still waiting Wednesday for a search warrant to search the car, Dempsey said.

Gagnon, who had escaped from federal custody in August 1985 and was on the marshals service’s ″15 Most Wanted″ list, was being held in the Sacramento County Jail pending court action.

He had broken free in Hartford, Conn., by jumping out of a marshals service car that had become stuck in traffic on Interstate 91. The marshals had been returning him to Walpole prison in Massachusetts from an appearance in Illinois in connection with a civil suit.

In Walpole, he was serving a 39- to 54-year sentence for the attempted murder of a police officer and robbery of a Springfield, Mass., bank in 1977.

He had been on the ″15 Most Wanted″ list since September 1985, but his arrest was triggered by an all-points bulletin that was reactivated last week after a citizen who saw the ″Unsolved Mysteries″ program reported that Gagnon was living in Buford, Ga., Dempsey said.

″He had just arrived there, been there no more than two months, renting a room,″ Dempsey said. ″In a non-metropolitan area like Buford, Ga., a stranger is spotted easily enough. That was the scenario. Someone who had watched the ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ program last week made the information available.

But Gagnon ″apparently was aware that he was on the program as one of the featured personalities, and before we could get him, he had taken off,″ Dempsey said.

Nevertheless, the marshals had gotten valuable information on Gagnon’s car and its license plate, Dempsey said.

The car was stopped because ″he had tinted windows that are illegal there in California,″ Dempsey said. After officers pulled him over, they checked the description of the car and driver and found both matched those on the all- points bulletin, he said.

This was the first arrest of someone on the marshals’ ″15 Most Wanted″ list that stemmed from the ″Unsolved Mysteries″ program, but five or six others have been prompted by stories on the ″America’s Most Wanted″ show on the Fox network, Dempsey said.

While there’s been some criticism that such shows are sensational, Dempsey said, ″I think this is proving the value to law enforcement that they have. You have a mighty potential posse like the marshals in frontier days.″