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RECORD OF UNWITTING `CAR THIEF' FINALLY GETS A TUNE-UP

Fifty-three years have passed, but Raymond Roy Evans has a clean slate after unwittingly jumping into a stolen car in 1937.

"I just felt like the biggest burden in the world came off my back," Evans, 71, said Saturday after hearing the only crime he ever committed was erased from the books. "I don't think in 50 years a day has gone by when it didn't come up in the back of my mind."I've never taken a thing in my life," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Estacada, Ore. "I couldn't picture myself as a criminal."

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Frank T. Crivello Friday honored Evans' request and expunged the conviction for operating an auto without the owner's consent.

The case dates to when Evans was 18 and living in a community called Silverado, south of Milwaukee.

He went to the shores of Lake Michigan when an acquaintance - "he wasn't even really a friend" - drove up in a late model Ford.

"I was gullible so I got in and went for a ride," he said.

As they drove, the acquaintance explained he was joy riding in a stolen car. When they reached a stop sign, the driver hopped out, leaving Evans alone in the car.

Scared and uncertain what to do, Evans panicked and drove off, leaving it at the edge of town.

It was the last time Evans got in a stolen car. Other youths he knew, though, continued joy riding until they were caught.

"When they were caught, my name came up," he said.

Evans was convicted in April 1937 and placed on two years of probation.

He later served as a platoon sergeant in World War II, winning ribbons, battle stars and a Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and returned to Wisconsin, eventually moving to the northern part of the state. He moved to the West Coast in 1953.