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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Manhunt ends with arrest

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Richard Irby

Staff Writer

A 19-year-old Salem man, Thomas Junior Smith, was arrested in the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 10, following a manhunt, which lasted more than 24 hours.

Smith was first apprehended by Trooper Buck Foley on Wednesday, Sept. 8, after Izard County filed a Probation Revocation warrant.

After arriving at the Fulton County Jail, Smith, who was handcuffed, jumped from the patrol car and fled on foot.

Officers checked several residences in the area where Smith was known to have friends or acquaintances, without success.

A tip, Thursday morning, sent investigators to the home of Leah Burch on Liberty Hill Road.

Deputy Lance Gray and Salem Police Chief Albert Roork were making their way to the rear of the mobile home when the back door flew open and Smith ran into the woods and, again, disappeared. The officers observed that Smith had, somehow, removed his handcuffs since his escape from custody.

A tracking dog and team from the Department of Correction in Calico Rock came to help in the hunt for Smith.

"The dog and its handlers spent several hours on Smith's trail," said Chief Roork, "But, while the dog picked up his scent, the steady rain hampered its success and Smith kept getting in the creek making it hard to track him."

After the tracking team left, the search continued. Because word had spread that a fugitive was at large, law enforcement agencies continued to receive tips as to Smith's whereabouts.

After 11 p.m. on Thursday night, Trooper Foley was told Smith was at the Niederbrach home on Whippoorwill Lane. During a visit to the home earlier in the day, a family member had admitted Smith had stopped there the night before.

Chief Roork and Deputies Lance Gray and Seth Jones were recruited by Foley to help investigate the report.

After midnight, the deputies walked through wet woods and fields to reach the back of the home.

Once they were in place, Foley and Roork drove up the driveway. As hoped, Smith ran out the back door, where the deputies were waiting, and Smith was finally apprehended.

"We knew we would get him," said Roork. "It was just a matter of time."

Smith will face new charges for the felony escape.

He had been released on bond in August, after being arrested along with a 14-year-old, for a break-in at the Salem High School.

The Salem arrest led Izard County to seek a probation revocation. Smith is also, likely, to face probation revocation for a past arrest in Missouri.

The manhunt for Smith has also resulted in three additional arrests.

Patrick McNeely, 20, of Melbourne was arrested for providing the key which freed Smith from his handcuffs.

Danny Rettew, 33, and Leah Burch, 21, both of Fulton County, have been arrested for assisting Smith after his escape.

Roork says the assistance the three provided Smith cannot be ignored.

"When we have an escaped felon on the loose, we will strongly pursue charges against anyone who aids and abets the criminal," said Roork.

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