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Fugitive dad leaves sick son on dialysis

Authorities suspect man fled to Mexico as his child needs kidney

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Kentucky convict Byron Perkins fled after convincing a judge he would donate a kidney to his son.

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CNN) -- A Kentucky prisoner who duped authorities and his family into believing he intended to donate a kidney to his ailing son may have escaped to Mexico with his girlfriend, federal authorities said.

"It is a solid lead," Deputy U.S. Marshal Dawn Izgarjan told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday.

The possible breakthrough came after a couple saw a report on CNN about Byron Perkins and his fugitive girlfriend while at the Phoenix, Arizona, airport, recognized the pair and called authorities.

The couple reportedly told authorities they had spent time with Perkins and the woman, Lee Ann Howard, in a fishing village near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, earlier in the week. Authorities consider Perkins armed and dangerous.

"They described the tattoo that was on the gentleman's chest that was identified with Byron Perkins as being an identifying mark," Deputy U.S. Marshal Chuck Gilbert said.

The couple reportedly said the two went by the name Perkins and that the woman used insulin.

Authorities said Howard is a diabetic. (Watch for the jailhouse conversation the couple had about her needles -- 3:44)

The couple also said the two had books on regions of Mexico and that the man "seemed to know a lot" about the country, Izgarjan said.

'My son is going to die'

In January, a judge allowed Perkins to leave jail, where he'd been awaiting sentencing for a gun and drug conviction, for medical tests before his son's surgery. Perkins' conviction carries a minimum jail term of 25 years.

Izgarjan, who was in the courtroom when Perkins asked to be released, said he had convinced everyone of his sincerity.

"He was crying. He was just literally begging the judge," Izgarjan said. "He told the judge, 'My son is going to die if I don't give him this kidney. He's so sick right now.' "

Perkins, who had served seven years for bank robbery, even left behind a letter promising he would "come through" for his son Destin, 16, who needs dialysis.

The judge approved the release on a $10,000 unsecured bond, which did not require Perkins to put up any money.

Perkins was allowed to stay at his mother's house and report to a probation officer.

Izgarjan said he returned to custody four days after his release for initial tests. "When he was released a second time [for more tests], I don't think any of us believed that he would have done this," she said.

"You know he ran," said Destin's mother, Angela Hammond. "It doesn't say much about his feelings for Destin."

Perkins was not wearing a tracking ankle bracelet because doctors told the court it would have interfered with medical tests.

He did not report back to authorities and has been missing for more than a month.

Authorities said the policies that allowed for Perkins' release are under review.

Howard is wanted on charges of firearms violations, drug trafficking and drug possession, and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report

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