Investigators believe a missing elderly Ohio couple was killed in their home, and a murder suspect being questioned in West Virginia has told police he dumped their bodies in a Georgia cotton field, authorities said Friday.
Samuel K. Littleton II was arrested Wednesday in a wooded area in Princeton, W.Va., where the car belonging to 84-year-old Richard Russell and his 85-year-old wife, Gladis, was found in a Walmart parking lot a day earlier. The couple has been missing for nine days, and Bellefontaine police Chief Brad Kunze said authorities believe they were killed in their home in rural Bellefontaine, about 50 miles northwest of Columbus.
Police have said there was blood inside the car and in the trunk. Littleton's own car had been found abandoned a couple of miles from the Russells' home.
Littleton told police in West Virginia he dumped the bodies while driving through Georgia to Florida, according to a statement from the Lowndes County, Ga., sheriff's office posted on the website of WSYX-TV in Columbus, Ohio. The statement says Littleton was in the Valdosta, Ga., area on Feb. 18, two days after the couple disappeared.
The Russells' car was spotted about 6 a.m. that day, Commander Brian Childress of the Valdosta Police Department told The Columbus Dispatch. An officer tried to pull over the car for a minor traffic violation, but the driver refused to stop and the officer did not chase, per department policy.
Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine told the Dayton Daily News that Littleton was "vague" about the location of the bodies and that several hundred people are searching.
"He told police . he dumped the bodies in a cotton field in our county," Lowndes County Sheriff Lt. Stryde Jones told The Dispatch. "We're looking anywhere we can look.. We have a lot of cotton fields in this area," Jones said.
Kunze said a search began Thursday of about 180 miles along the Interstate-75 corridor in Georgia.
Littleton, 37, is charged in the stabbing death of his girlfriend's 26-year-old daughter, whose body was found in the basement of a Bellefontaine home he purchased from the Russells in 2009. He has not been charged in the Russells' disappearance.
Littleton appeared in Mercer County Circuit court in West Virginia on Thursday, when he said he would fight efforts to be extradited to Ohio to face prosecution in the woman's death. A message seeking comment was left after business hours Friday for his attorney, Marc Triplett, in Ohio. A woman answering the phone at Triplett's office confirmed that the lawyer had spoken with Littleton.
Littleton is being held without bond and faces a March 21 court hearing.
The Russells' family members addressed reporters in Ohio after meeting with local authorities Friday afternoon, The Dispatch reported.
"This is not what we wanted to hear," said Sandra Wilcox, the wife of one of the Russells' nephews. "All we can hope for now is that somebody finds them."