Ash Flat's Chief of Police Mike Zeiger apprehended two men at Wal-Mart for shoplifting, but this officer's instinct led him to find much more about the young men.
Chief Zeiger responded to a call from Wal-Mart Security Officer Rodney Hallmark and store manager Mike Alexander Aug. 19, regarding two men shoplifting.
Upon his arrival, Zeiger was shown two shopping carts full of camping and hunting supplies, as well as several music discs. Hallmark advised Zeiger that Justin Walker, 21, of Mountain Home and Robert Hudson, 19, of Montroe, Calif. had been in the store three times during the day starting around 7:30 a.m. Hallmark said both men had eaten a chocolate fried pie without paying for them and that is when they were apprehended.
"Boys, those are going to be the most expensive fried pies you ever ate," Zeiger said. "They are $180 each. That's the fine for shoplifting,"
When Zeiger questioned the men on how they got to Wal-Mart and how they planned on paying for the shopping cart full of merchandise, Hudson told the officer he had a debit card and that his wife had dropped them off, Zeiger reported. Zeiger then offered his phone to Hudson to call his wife. After dialing a number Hudson told the officer she did not answer. Zeiger checked the number dialed and learned it was not a real number.
Zeiger, who initially wrote the men citations for misdemeanor shoplifting, took the men into custody setting a cash bond. Zeiger said he believed the men were lying and that if he left them with citations, he would never see them again. While neither of the mens' records came back with any warrants, dispatch informed Zeiger that the two men had been questioned by Hardy Police the night before.
Hardy Police Chief Carroll Traw told Zeiger he had not actually seen the men get off the train traveling through Hardy the night before, but when the train slowed they were there, and he felt they had jumped off. Traw transported them to Wal-Mart after they told him they were trying to get to Mountain Home.
According to the report, Zeiger told Dispatcher Tess South he felt as though the boys were running from something and if he let them go he would have some kind of victim on his hands in the near future. Around 7 p.m. that evening South called Zeiger and told him his instincts were right -- the men were AWOL from the Marines and the Marines wanted the two very badly.
A warrant was issued for the men from Quantico, Va.
On Aug. 20, Zieger interviewed Walker who according to the report confessed he and Hudson had left Camp Pendelton in California in Walker's car and made their way to Mountain Home to a relatives house. When a recruiter showed up at the house the men fled on foot out the back door and hitchhiked to West Plains, Mo. The men then walked and hitchhiked to Mammoth Spring where they got a ride to Hardy. The report says that Hudson and Walker stole a canoe off the river bank and went down stream to a small town below Hardy.
The men thought they should backtrack to throw off anyone who was looking for them, so they left the canoe and hopped a train until it stopped north of Hardy where officer Traw spotted them.
According to the report, Head Jailer Eric Pickle called Zeiger and informed him that one of the inmates in the jail had told him that the two were boasting of stolen property and cash they hid behind Wal-Mart. Zeiger and three Ash Flat workers conducted a search around Wal-Mart where Gary Benton found two backpacks filled with clothing and camping items, as well as a CD case with several CDs inside. Moments later, Danny Grant found approximately 15 CD cases in the woods between Wal-Mart and Remington Plaza.
When Zeiger returned to the jail and questioned Walker, Walker admitted to leaving the military and stealing the canoe. Walker also admitted to stealing several CDs from the West Plains Wal-Mart.
Both men are being held in the Sharp County Jail awaiting extradition by the military.