David James Roberts was the first fugitive profiled on America's Most Wanted. He was also the first one to be captured.
Roberts was convicted in 1975 of murdering a family and burning down its house, then again in 1977 while out on bail for raping a woman, locking her in the trunk of her car and killing her infant child. He received six consecutive life sentences in Indiana but escaped in 1986 while being transported to a hospital for medical treatment. The FBI placed him on its most-wanted list in 1987, and America's Most Wanted profiled him in its debut show, which aired Feb. 7, 1988. Almost immediately, producers received dozens of calls from people who recognized Roberts but knew him under a different name: Bob Lord, director of a Staten Island, N.Y., homeless shelter. One woman, identifying herself as Lord's girlfriend, called to say that the fugitive was currently hospitalized for medical treatment, but when authorities showed up at the hospital, they found the patient had absconded. Roberts was captured in Staten Island on Feb. 11, 1988 just four days after the show aired. He is now in prison, serving an additional 20 years for his escape. He is not eligible for parole.
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