Wednesday, January 23, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Man's death at 71 at last ends effort to return him to prison

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Robert Lee Burns, who stymied California's efforts to make him finish his prison sentence in the slaying of a highway patrolman after being free 27 years, died yesterday at home in Springfield. He was 71.

Suffering from prostate cancer and heart disease while battling a return to prison for more than a year, Burns went home from the hospital Saturday after doctors decided they could do no more to prolong his life.

Though the California Department of Corrections' effort to bring Burns back to prison was still pending in the Oregon Court of Appeals, relatives arranged for the security bracelet from his house arrest to be cut off and falsely told him California had dropped the case.

"We lied to him," said Tami Ferguson, his former sister-in-law.

"We wanted him to die thinking he was a free man."

In 1963, Burns and two partners robbed a bank in Sacramento and were driving over the Sierras when they were pulled over for speeding by California state trooper Glenn Carlson. One of Burns' partners shot and killed Carlson.

Burns served 4-1/2 years of his California sentence before being sent back to Oregon to finish an unrelated term for robbery. Oregon authorities deemed him completely rehabilitated, and then-Gov. Robert Straub refused to send him back to prison in California.


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