CLEVELAND (AP) — A man wanted in the killings of an elderly Ohio couple and suspected of committing armed robberies in three states fled from sheriff's deputies in Arizona before being arrested early Thursday after a nationwide manhunt, authorities said.
The FBI had issued a federal warrant for 29-year-old Robert Clark in the abduction and slayings last month of 88-year-old Doyle Chumney and his 79-year-old wife, Lillian, in Strasburg, Ohio, and the robberies of stores in West Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia last weekend. The FBI posted a $20,000 reward for information leading to Clark's capture.
The Mohave County sheriff's office said Thursday that Clark sped away from deputies after midnight Thursday when they tried to stop his van on Interstate 40 near Kingman, Arizona. The sheriff's office had received a bulletin Wednesday to look out for Clark, his van and two companions suspected of also being involved in the robberies.
Deputies pursued the van for about 30 minutes into Kingman and then into a sparsely populated area where Clark pulled onto a dirt road and the van got stuck in sand, said Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe. The three fled into the desert.
Clark and 26-year-old Tabatha Hazel were quickly captured. A search team later found 28-year-old Jeffrey Caley Jr. hiding behind rocks. Caley put a gun to his head and threatened suicide before agreeing to surrender, authorities said.
The three are being held in Mojave County Jail without bond.
Ohio investigators have said Hazel and Caley are suspects in the armed robberies but not in the killings. The Chumneys' remains were found inside their badly burned car on a country road in rural Coshocton County on Jan. 22, the day after they were reported missing by a daughter who found their home had been ransacked. Authorities believe the Chumneys were shot before their car was set ablaze.
Tuscarawas County Sheriff Walt Wilson said at a news conference Thursday that he was relieved no one else was hurt while Clark, Caley and Hazel traveled the country. He called the slayings "a horrific crime."
"Our hearts go out to the family of the Chumneys," he said. "It's hard to imagine someone could do something so terrible to a nice elderly couple."
The Chumneys' four children thanked law enforcement agencies and the public Thursday for their support. They encouraged anyone with more information to come forward.
Before the attempted traffic stop in northern Arizona early Thursday, Clark and his two companions were last seen during a robbery in Donalsonville, Georgia, on Sunday night. A surveillance video from that robbery shows Clark holding a sawed-off shotgun and Caley holding a pistol as a convenience store clerk walks in front of them. Hazel went inside the store before Clark and Caley entered, authorities said.
A second man charged with murder in the killings, 21-year-old Jeffery Stewart, was arrested Jan. 31. He is charged with one count of murder and is being held on $2 million bond. Authorities have said Stewart implicated himself and Clark in the killings. It appears that Clark and Stewart knew each other through a landscaping service where they had worked, Coshocton County sheriff's detective Tom Couts has said.
Clark was released from prison in May after serving a 4 1/2-year sentence for robbery and other charges.
Authorities received a break in the investigation after surveillance video was released to the public that shows Clark's van at a gas station where Stewart bought a gas can and filled it, Couts said. Stewart called police after seeing the video. He was arrested on a traffic warrant and provided statements implicating himself and Clark, Couts said.
Fonseca reported from Flagstaff, Arizona. Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report from Phoenix.