Captured fugitive felt invincible

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By Carol A. Clark

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of  a three-part series covering the life of Leslie Kathryn Draper as recounted by her during a jailhouse interview.

Wanted in two states, Leslie Kathryn Draper spent several weeks on the lam before her capture in Albuquerque by Los Alamos police March 31.

The 24-year-old, single mother of two is charged with drug trafficking and could receive a combined sentence of up to 43 years in prison.

“I never imagined this to get so big – it was just meant to be fun – to hang out,” Draper said during a June 22 jailhouse interview.

She spent two hours describing her loving parents and ideal childhood, how she graduated from a top high school and her acceptance to Duke University.

Draper also detailed a string of “dumb decisions,” she made that have altered her life forever.

“I think it came from that invincibility in high school – that we could do anything we wanted to do and get away with it because we made the grades,” she said. “It was just so fun in high school. It’s not like that anymore and I keep trying to make it that way.”

Draper graduated from The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, a prestigious institution designed for students pursuing advanced studies in math, science and the humanities.

She recalled dabbling in drugs with her friends in high school but stopped all drug use her junior year when the school implemented random drug testing, she said.

As she sits in jail, her friends have all graduated from schools such as Harvard, Yale and MIT, she said, and have embarked on exciting careers.

Draper was accepted to Duke University but decided to take a brief break. Duke granted her a one-year deferment.

“I just wanted to take a little time for myself before starting college,” she said.

That summer while working at the local Subway she met a drug-using ex-convict. She became pregnant and he became mean and physically abusive. He was later sent back to prison.

Draper became pregnant again by another man eight months after the birth of her first child. He also used drugs, was on parole and robbed $500 from her father’s wallet during the month she knew him.

“I slept with him twice,” she said. “He failed a drug test and was sent back to prison.”

Born in Kansas, Draper moved to Nashville as a baby and to Ft. Payne, Ala., when she was eight. Ft. Payne is home to the group “Alabama” with whom her mother went to high school, she said.

Her mother is a traveling nurse whose assignments change every 13 weeks, Draper said. Her father is a retired data base analyst. She also has an older brother.

“He turned 25 in March and I turned 24 in May, here in jail; great birthday.”

None of her “friends” ever visited her in jail in Alabama and no one she’s met locally has visited her in the Los Alamos jail either, she said quietly.

While her high school friends were preparing to enter Ivy League colleges, Draper was falling into a world filled with drugs and undesirable people. She became alienated from her family.

Draper met her first child’s father while working at a local Subway. In just five months on the job, Draper was promoted to manager, she said and later supervisor over 11 stores.

“I got pregnant that summer and I didn’t want to leave him,” she said of the baby’s father. “He was a high school dropout, a drug addict and he beat me. He saw his daughter once when she was four weeks old. He’s back in federal prison now.”

Because he became increasingly “crazy,” Draper said she quit Subway and moved in with her mother who was on assignment in Birmingham. Her daughter was born while there, she said. Both of her babies were born healthy because she stopped all drugs during her pregnancies, she said.

Draper and the baby moved back to her parent’s home in Ft. Payne. She worked for a time at the local Wal-Mart where she met her second child’s father in the parking lot.

“I slept with him twice and got pregnant,” Draper said. “I was scared to have a second one but didn’t want an abortion or adoption. One month after I was pregnant he got sent back to prison.”

Draper’s mom received an assignment in Roswell and her father went with her. “I dropped my daughter off at daycare at 5:30 a.m., and worked from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then took classes at the community college,” she said.

“Then the daycare closed its second shift. The owner said she’d keep my daughter Monday and Wednesday and a friend kept her on other days. It was killing me working fulltime and taking care of Lily and my son inside of me and going to college,” she said. “But I did it and I did it all alone because my parents were in Roswell.”

NEXT: There are no guarantees.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.