Enrique "Kiki" Silva started a new life for himself with a wife and children in Orlando, living within an hour of Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Earlier in life, Silva, now 74, had been convicted of drug charges in Camden in 1989 and sentenced to eight to 20 years behind bars. But in 1995, Silva escaped from a New Jersey state prison and vanished.
Authorities never stopped hunting him during the 23 years he was on the run, looking for him throughout the country, including Florida and Puerto Rico, where they believed he had family, said Mike Schroeder, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Trenton.
When authorities got a tip that he was living with a woman in Orlando, the U.S. Marshals Service in New Jersey called Florida marshals. Law enforcement officers created a stakeout at the home Silva shared with his family and spotted a mature man with a full head of gray hair and a beard and mustache who matched Silva's 1989 mugshot with dark hair, a beard and mustache, and fewer facial lines.
As they closed in, the man ran out the back door and into the arms of marshals.
"It pays off when officers stay on top of these cases," Schroeder said Tuesday, a day after announcing the arrest. "They sat on it [the house] and struck gold."
Silva remains in custody in Florida pending extradition to New Jersey.
According to the Department of Corrections, Silva escaped on May 16, 1995, from the now-closed Riverfront State Prison in Camden as he was serving time on possession and distribution drug charges. Authorities said Silva walked away from a prison work detail.
Schroeder said authorities followed numerous tips over the years, and recently circled back to those who may have information about where Silva was living. In February, they got the tip about Orlando.
Schroeder said Silva was using his real name, had married, and had at least two daughters. He did not know whether Silva's wife knew he was a fugitive. At the time of Silva's arrest Thursday, no one else had been charged in helping him elude authorities, Schroeder said. Fugitives become more comfortable as time passes, he said, as illustrated by the fact that Silva was using his real name instead of an alias, as he had done in the past. That gave authorities an advantage in the search.