After 36 Years FBI Gets Its Man — Thanks to Dying Mom’s Request

By Allan Lengel

A dying mother’s request helped the FBI nab her her son, who had been on the lam for 36 years. He had escaped from prison while serving life for a deadly San Francisco robbery.

The Sacramento FBI Safe Streets Violent Crime Task Force on Friday arrested William Walter Asher III, 66, in Salida, Calif., a community outside of Modesto in northern California.

The story begins in 1966 when Asher, 20 at the time, and three other accomplices, robbed a San Franciso bar and killed the bartender. He fled to Chicago and the following year was captured by the FBI. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

In January 1975 , a woman on the outside helped him escape from a state prison in El Dorado County, Calif. The FBI tracked him to  the Northwest Territories of Canada and the area in and around Hyder, Alaska. But by then, he was gone.

Investigators eventually figured out that Asher had assumed the name David Donald Mcfee, worked as a long-haul truck driver, married, and raised a family.  At some point, he  separated from his wife, who was later interviewed by Canadian authorities as well as the FBI. But she was unable to help authorities find Asher.

Recently, authorities got a break. They learned that that just before Asher’s mother, Mable Welch, passed away on July 1, 2005, she asked  family members to assist her in using the “secret” number to call “Billy.”

Armed with that information, the FBI Sacramento office collected toll records for associates of Mable Welch who were believed to have assisted her in contacting Asher.

Authorities reviewed multiple cell phone records which showed that two days prior to Mabel’s death, on June 29, 2005, two calls were made to a home in Salida, Calif.

Investigators found that the home was tied to the name  Garry Donald Webb (DOB: 01/15/1946).  The FBI found that Webb’s California driver’s license  photo resembled an older, thinner Asher.

On August 19,  agents and officers set up a surveillance of the  Salida home and the trucking business where  “Webb” supposedly worked.

At about 8:15 a.m., Asher exited the home and confronted by investigators. After some initial discussion, he admitted his true identity.

The FBI said it  appeared that a woman who had been with Asher for at least 10 years was unaware of his criminal past.

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