Joanne Chesimard, Credit: FBI
Newark, NJ-- (CBS News) For the first time, the FBI added a woman to its most wanted terrorist list Thursday. Joanne Chesimard was convicted of murdering New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster in 1973, breaking out of prison in 1979 and has been on the run for more than three decades.
This week -- on the 40th anniversary of the killing -- the FBI added Chesimard, who is also the step-aunt and godmother to rapper Tupac Shakur, to its most wanted terrorist list and upped the reward for her capture to $2 million.
Authorities believed Chesimard escaped to Cuba and reportedly still lives and travels to countries friendly to the Cuban regime. She was considered to be the leader of the Black Liberation Army in the 1970s and now lives under the name Assata Shakur.
CBS News' John Miller, who served as an assistant director at the FBI during Chesimard's time on the run, said she was "the soul of the Black Liberation Army," in the '70s. The group planned assassinations of police officers in major American cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Francisco. The anniversary of the "shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike" was the "catalyst for doubling the reward" for her capture on Thursday, Miller said.
Miller described her "incredibly daring" 1979 prison escape, explaining that "two men smuggled into the prison, took guards hostages and broke her out ... in 1984, they smuggled her to Mexico."
"Using a network of Cuban intelligence officers who worked with American radical groups, they got her into Cuba," Miller said, where she has lived out in the open and working as a teacher at Cuban universities until more recently when she went "a little bit back underground."
Despite the revival of attention on Chesimard this week, Miller said it is unlikely the FBI will be able to capture her in Cuba, a country that has historically been a welcoming hideout for U.S. fugitives. There are currently 70 American fugitives living in Cuba, according to Miller, and Chesimard has reportedly been provided with false papers by the Cuban government in order to travel in disguise to Mexico, Venezuela and several other countries.
Still, it is in the interest of the U.S. to reiterate the importance of her capture because as "we learned from the 'Arab Spring,'" Miller said, "regime change can happen quickly," and the FBI wants to guarantee that if there is rapid change in Cuba, new leaders and authorities are aware that Chesimard is valuable to the U.S.