Lansing Authorities already were on a strong scent in their search for Lansing prison escapee John M. Manard on Friday in Chattanooga, Tenn., when coincidence intervened to deliver a case-closing gift.
U.S. Marshals were setting up a command post or "rally point" near a shopping mall where law enforcement authorities could gather before scouring the area. They had received a tip that a 1997 white Chevrolet pickup truck being used by Manard, a convicted killer, and his presumed accomplice, prison volunteer Toby Young, had been spotted in the area.
"Believe it or not, the two -Young and Manard - walked out of a Barnes and Noble store at the mall where the deputies were attempting to set up a rally point," said Ray Stewart, a deputy with the U.S. Marshal's Service and head of the Fugitive Task Force in Wichita.
Stewart, who appeared at a Saturday morning news conference at Lansing Correctional Facility with Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell, said the marshals didn't immediately recognize Manard and Young until they walked to a 1997 white Chevy pickup truck.
"As the vehicle drove past, they noticed that that's the vehicle that actually they were going to be attempting to find," Stewart said.
The chance encounter blossomed into a 60-mile, full-blown chase down Interstate 75. With at least 40 law enforcement vehicles and two Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopters converging on the pickup and a rolling roadblock set up on the interstate, Maynard made his final mistake before being captured. He lost control and crashed the pickup while trying to drive on the median around the roadblock.
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Soon, several officers tackled Manard as he tried to run away. Young also "put up some resistance," Stewart said, but was apprehended.
Their capture brought to the end a 12-day manhunt for the pair that began Feb. 12 when, authorities say, Manard was spirited out of Lansing Correctional Facility in a van driven by Young.
Authorities said Young, a frequent visitor to the prison because of her work with the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program, had gained enough familiarity with an officer at the prison's vehicle exit point, that he had stopped searching her van.
The escape cost the officer his job; he was fired Friday. It'll likely cost Manard any chance at parole for his 1997 conviction in the carjacking and murder of a Johnson County man. And it's likely to cost Young her freedom.
As for the Safe Harbor program, its future is up in the air.
"That's going to be up to Safe Harbor to determine how they go about continuing their program," Miskell said. "The Department of Corrections remains firmly committed to the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program."
'Best possible outcome'
Officials expressed relief with the capture.
"The apprehension that occurred last night is the best possible outcome that we could have anticipated from this escape," Miskell said at the news conference. "There were no serious injuries to anyone, and John Maynard and Toby Young are back in custody and at this point awaiting return to Kansas."
Saturday, Manard was being held in the Hamilton County Jail in Chattanooga; Young was in the McMinn County Jail in Athens, Tenn., Stewart said.
Both Young and Manard face Kansas charges related to the escape. Meanwhile, authorities continue their investigation to determine whether they'll also be charged with federal offenses and to see if they can piece together how they planned the escape.
Car lot clue
Stewart and Miskell said investigators from the prison discovered a key to finding the couple earlier Friday. They said they learned at a used-car lot in Independence, Mo., that a woman fitting Young's description had bought a white pickup prior to the escape. The sales receipt, they said, indicated the truck was sold to someone with an Alpine, Tenn., address.
Why Young and Manard decided on staying in a cabin in Alpine, a rural community in eastern Tennessee, was not known Saturday.
"It may have been just a place that they wandered upon," Stewart said. "We have no evidence one way or the other if they'd been there before or she'd been there before. It is an out-of-the-way place, according to the deputies in Nashville.
"She could have done some research prior to the escape - like she did on everything else - and knew how rural it was and it was a good place."
Stewart said after Young's capture, she agreed to cooperate with authorities, including consenting to a search of the cabin where she and Manard were staying. The subsequent search showed the two had been busy shopping.
"From my understanding the cabin was loaded with goodies," Stewart said, including two guitars and an amplifier. Also found in the cabin were the two handguns that were missing from Young's house in Kansas City, Kan., and a lock box, which Young told authorities contained more than $25,000 in cash.
'An active participant'
Stewart, who said he had hunted hundreds of fugitives in 13 years with the Marshal's Service, said Young was an accomplice in the escape, despite Manard's statement after his capture that Young was his hostage.
"It was very obvious to me and others in this investigation that she is and was an active participant," Stewart said. "This was a very thought-out and very well-planned escape."
Neither Stewart nor Miskell could say when the former fugitives will be returned to Kansas or where in Kansas they'll be held pending their court appearance. Among the factors will be whether they'll be charged with federal crimes. Stewart said the U.S. Attorney for Kansas was considering firearms charges against Manard, for instance, since he is a convicted felon.
"When they come back and where they'll be returned to are decisions that have not yet been made and won't be made until a number of issues are considered and resolved," Miskell said.