A man who fled the state of Wisconsin and lived in the Athens area for several years using an alias remained in the Henderson County Jail Wednesday as authorities in two states pondered his future.

Athens Police Chief Buddy Hill said Emil C. Garza, 58, is in ill health and has difficulty speaking after a recent hospital stay that led to local authorities discovering his identity. Garza had escaped from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in 1986 while serving time for burglary and forgery.

According to Hill, Garza came to Henderson County in the early 90s using the name John Hollingsworth. He presented himself as the husband of an Athens woman who had returned from the Austin area. For 16 years she worked at a local business while Garza labored at a series of cash paying jobs not requiring a social security number.

This year the woman developed severe health problems and, unable to perform her duties, was terminated from her job. She died a short time later. According to Hill, Garza was reported to have said, “I have nothing to live for.” He also allegedly threatened to kill the woman’s former employer.

When Garza did not come to her funeral, friends went to his residence on Farm to Market Road 753 and attempted to get him to come out. Unsuccessful, they forced open the door and entered, discovering Garza was suffering from severe medical problems thought to have been brought on by diabetes. Hill said Garza was transported to a local hospital and placed in ICU with doctors not sure if he would recover.

Within a few days Garza’s condition improved enough, Hill said, that he regained his mental faculties and some of his physical abilities. He still, however, has difficulty forming sentences and stands with a walker.

Hill said when police talked to Garza on Dec. 14, he consented to be fingerprinted. The next day Detective Cliff Van Cleave drove to the Tyler Police Department and met with a crime scene investigator who ran the prints through an Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The system returned the name Jesse Garza, who had arrests in various Texas cities for offenses like auto theft and theft. The investigators learned Jesse had been an alias for Emil.

Police also discovered Garza had escaped from Wisconsin authorities about 20 years ago and a warrant had been issued in 1987 for his arrest. Hill said investigators contacted the Wisconsin Department of Correction and received a picture of a Garza taken in 1976. Tattoos on his arm matched the man in Athens and facial characteristics were similar. Police were later able to match fingerprints taken in Wisconsin to those taken locally.

APD obtained a fugitive warrant and Van Cleave served it without incident at Garza’s home. Hill said police contacted Wisconsin officials to see if they were interested in having Garza extradited to face charges there. They were.

Hill said, “If he waives extradition, Garza will return to Wisconsin and we’ll probably never see him again.’’

If not, local authorities will have to decide how to deal with the aging felon.

Garza remained in the Henderson County Jail as of press time today.

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e-mail rflowers@athensreview.com

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