Peaceful capture ends villainous crime spree

The Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. An ex-convict and a teen-ager who allegedly made their way across the country by killing people and stealing their cars were captured by police Tuesday as they slept under a bridge, weapons at their sides.

Acting on a tip from a Santa Fe man who had given the suspects a ride Monday night, eight state police officers wielding 20-shot assault rifles arrested the pair in a concrete culvert in the high desert country just outside Santa Fe.

Eric A. Elliott, 16, and Lewis E. Gilbert, 22, both of Newcomerstown, Ohio, are suspected of killing four people in Ohio, Missouri and Oklahoma and using each victim's car to get to their next crime.

"The nightmare is over," said Bob Hawk, spokesman for the FBI office in Cleveland.

The men appeared in court Tuesday on federal charges of unlawful flight from prosecution and were ordered held pending further hearings on Thursday. Both also face state charges of burglary and kidnapping in Ohio.

The men were found about 9:30 a.m. sleeping on blankets next to the remains of a campfire in the culvert, which is in a dry gully. Two high-powered rifles, a shotgun and a handgun were found nearby. The handgun was underneath a glove near one of them, and the shotgun was between the two men, police said.

State police Lt. Garry Walsmith said police quietly approached the bridge and shouted for the pair to surrender and put their hands up.

The two sat up immediately but didn't raise their hands before officers rushed in with guns drawn. The pair said nothing during the arrest, Walsmith said.

"Because of the element of surprise ... nothing bad happened," said State Police Chief John Denko. "Luckily they were sleeping."

Authorities believe Gilbert and Elliott met on Aug. 15, the day Gilbert was released from prison after serving time for stealing a boat. Elliott is awaiting trial on charges of breaking into a bowling alley July 26.

Elliott's parents, Robert, 40, and Judy, 38, said at a news con ference in Newcomerstown that they spoke to their son for about a minute after his arrest and he sounded afraid but did not discuss the case.

"He just would like to hear our voice. That's what I believe he wanted," said Judy Elliott. "We told him we loved him and that we were here for him."

The men are suspected of breaking into the farmhouse of Ruth Lucille Loader in Port Washington, Ohio, about 80 miles south of Cleveland. The 79-year-old woman was missing Tuesday, and family members feared she was dead.

Authorities in Ohio used dogs, helicopters and boats to look for the woman, who had undergone cancer surgery in April and weighed only about 82 pounds.

Mrs. Loader's car was found Thursday night, 650 miles from Port Washington at Fulton, Mo., near the home of a slain couple. William Brewer, 86, and his wife, Flossie, 76, each had been shot three times in the head.

The Brewers' car was found Sunday near the body of Roxie Ruddel, 37, a security guard at a marina near Oklahoma City. The FBI believes the pair drove off in Ms. Ruddel's silver-gray pickup, which police found three miles away from the sleeping men.

The capture came a half hour after state police received two calls about people fitting the descriptions of the man and teen-ager.

One came from a man who said he had given them a ride. Police said the man took the pair into Santa Fe about 7 p.m. Monday, then gave them a ride back to the culvert near Interstate 25. Police would not identify the man.

A second call came from a man in the Lamy area, south of Santa Fe, who said that two men riding in a silver truck came to his house Monday afternoon and that he gave them five gallons of gasoline. The man said he was unaware of the manhunt until he went to work Tuesday and his boss told him about the crime spree.

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