Fugitive, missing girl are in custody

Fugitive Mark Edwards and Michaela Bruce, the teenager who fled with him for the second time since September, have been captured tonight in the 1100 block of East John Street, the Springfield Police Division said.

Edwards, 44, and Bruce, 14, have been sought by authorities since Tuesday night when her mother reported her missing from their home in German Twp.

Edwards and Bruce were found in the back of a red and silver van that was stopped by sheriff's deputies at about 9:35 Friday night in front of an apartment complex in the 1100 block of East John Street.

A man driving that van, who identified himself to News Center 7 as a friend of Edwards, said he tried to talk Edwards into turning himself in.

Authorities asked the man to drive the van downtown to the Clark County Sheriff's Office. A woman in the van with the man, Edwards and Bruce was not identified. Her connection to the man driving the van, Edwards or Bruce was not immediately clear.

Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said the continuing onslaught of tips to his office led deputies to a Clark gas station at Selma and Sunset in Springfield, where Edwards and Bruce had gone to find food and water. Deputies stopped the van not long after that.

Kelly said the girl told authorities she and Edwards had been sleeping under a stairwell and had been walking railroad tracks -- she's not sure where they were. She'll remain in county juvenile detention tonight, the sheriff said. She'll likely be charged with delinquency by reason of interference of custody and inducing panic.

According to the Clark County Prosecutor's Office, a bond for Edwards will be set this weekend on new charges that include felony fleeing and eluding. Other charges are likely to include interference of custody, a misdemeanor. Edwards, who said nothing to reporters as he was walked through the sheriff's office to the county jail late Friday, is likely to be arraigned Sunday morning, we're told.

The $50,000 bond for Edwards, set in an earlier criminal case against him that involved him running off with Bruce, has been forfeited.

"My daughter's safe. That's what counts. God brought her back," said Tammy Bruce, who was called to the sheriff's office when she was notified about her daughter. "My prayers were answered. My whole family's prayers were answered. I thank the public... just thank everybody for your prayers."

EARLIER STORY (trimmed in light of Friday night's developments):

The FBI is now involved in the investigation into the manhunt. FBI agents arrived in Clark County Thursday night and searched the home of Edwards at 358 E. McCreight Ave. in Springfield. They were looking for electronic devices -- computers, laptops, cell phones and the like -- that could be used for communications in the continuing search. A computer and equipment was taken from the home, officials said.

Officials said they have been following "lead after lead," noting that those leads ultimately led investigators back to the residence. Edwards' wife is not happy about the search being executed at her house, sheriff's Sgt. Mike Young said, but she appeared to be cooperative.

In a news conference Friday morning, Sheriff Kelly said Edwards picked Bruce up at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. They attempted to get a room at the Comfort Inn, but the hotel was full. At 9:10 p.m., Bruce and Edwards checked into the Knights Inn on West Main Street in Springfield. At 10:20 p.m., purchases were made at CVS including women's black hair color. Edwards was caught on surveillance at CVS making the purchases.

As Edwards and Bruce were leaving CVS, their vehicle was spotted by a deputy, prompting a pursuit. Deputies cut off the pursuit in Springfield when Edwards, believed to be driving a car, ran a red light.

That car, with a blown tire, was found later. Also found in that car, which Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said was rented by Edwards' wife on Tuesday, were cell phones belonging to Edwards and he girl. The box of hair color, which hadn't been used, was also located in the car.

Items believed to belong to Edwards and Bruce -- including identification belonging to Bruce, a machete, a book bag and eyeglasses possibly belonging to the girl -- were located in a room. Kelly said it's believed Bruce and Edwards were on their way back to the hotel room when the pursuit started. The state bureau of criminal investigation is analyzing those items for DNA.

"We're checking absolutely everything that is coming in," Young said. "Until we find the needle, we've got to find the haystack.... It's very possible someone has lent some assistance to them, which is even more frustrating when they're not coming forward."

The Springfield News-Sun, after obtaining records into the background of Edwards, is reporting that the self-described "Bigfoot hunter" camped in a tent near her house in German Twp. in order to meet the girl for sex. Edwards and Bruce are believed to have had a relationship since last August and their flight, which began a few hours after he refused a plea deal on charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and interference with custody, violates a restraining order filed by the girl's family.

Those charges involve Bruce and the incident from last September, when authorities found her hiding under blankets in his SUV on Ohio 41. Ironically, county prosecutors tell News Center 7 the attorney for Edwards called the prosecutor's office Wednesday, offering to take plea deal in the September case. With Edwards on the run, prosecutors told his attorney the deal had expired. It isn't clear whether the attorney was aware Edwards had taken flight with Bruce.

Prosecutors said bond had to be set in the September case because the charges didn't warrant a higher bond. Prosecutors said they will seek the highest bond possible if he is found to ensure that he doesn't flee again. The September case was set for trial on March 4.

Meanwhile Thursday, German Twp. police searched outbuildings on a property near Tremont City frequented by Edwards. Also joining the FBI, Springfield police and the sheriff's office in the national manhunt is the U.S. Marshals Service Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team. Deputies and marshals agents checked locations outside Clark County.

See a timeline of both manhunts

Sheriff Gene Kelly has said Bruce -- whose name has been entered in the national database as a missing child -- and the public could be at risk if Edwards attempts something desperate to escape capture. He is possibly armed with guns and knives.

"This man is a predator with a child and we want to bring her home safely," Kelly said of Edwards, whose father confirmed that his son's hobbies include being a "survivalist." In 2012, Mark Edwards showed a Springfield News-Sun reporter his survivalist shelter, near Tremont City, and spears made from tree limbs that had knives attached. A similar spear was found in the SUV in the September incident.

Sheriff Kelly said Michaela's mother, Tammy Bruce, believes her daughter may have dyed her hair a dark color and had been asking her mother if she could dye it dark brown.

Deputies said a letter Bruce wrote to her mother in September detailed her love for Edwards and how she couldn't live without him. Authorities said Bruce and Edwards may view themselves as star-crossed lovers. In the petition for the restraining order, Tammy Bruce alleged that Edwards crawled through a window of her home to be with her daughter, and that they had sex in the woods and at his home.

On Bruce's Facebook page, she and Edwards can be seen posing in sci-fi or anime costumes along with other young females. Photos from the same series appear on the Facebook page of "Nagamishe Shiro," which appears to be an alias of Edwards.

Deputies are worried a suicide pact may exist between the two.

Tammy Bruce told News Center 7 that Edwards "knows he's going to be found... and it ain't going to be good."

She likened her daughter's relationship with Edwards to being in a "cult."

"It's like her little brain has been drilled over and over and over that he loves her. I trusted him. His daughter was my daughter's best friend. His wife was my friend," Tammy Bruce said.

Wednesday night, Fred Stegner, who operates the Springfield Soup Kitchen, 830 W. Main St., told News Center 7 Edwards and Bruce visited the facility sometime before 8 p.m. Tuesday. That would have been roughly an hour before the girl's mother reported her missing. Edwards eats at the facility regularly, Stegner said, but Tuesday night was the first time anyone there has seen him with the girl. There were 200 to 250 people there at the time. Springfield police and sheriff's deputies showed photos of the man and girl to volunteers Wednesday morning.

Edwards "came in with the blond lady," Stegner said. "I didn't know she was 14 until I came in today [Wednesday], but many volunteers told me they saw them."

No Amber Alert was issued in this latest episode, deputies said, because they believe Bruce went willingly.

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