Now that a missing 14-year-old girl from Clark County and the 44-year-old man she ran off with have been found, authorities say both will be facing criminal charges.
Fugitive Mark Edwards and Michaela Bruce, the teenager who fled with him for the second time since September, were captured Friday night in the 1100 block of East John Street, the Springfield Police Division said. The pair had been on the run since Tuesday night after Bruce’s mother called 911 to report her daughter missing from her German Twp. home on Faux Satin Drive.
In an exclusive interview with News Center 7, witness Walter Portman said he called 911 shortly after 9 p.m. Friday after seeing the pair walk out of the Clark gas station at Selma Pike and Sunset Avenue in Springfield. The pair were reportedly buying food and water inside the convenience store. He said he recognized them after seeing their photos on TV.
“She was all hugging up on him. I knew from her hair, she had blonde hair like they said,” Portman said. “Seeing them walking out, I just didn’t want them to get away … her being so young with him and everything.
“I’ve got little girls so I was just concerned for her safety,” he said.
Within minutes, Springfield officers stopped the red and silver van Portman described on East John Street in front of an apartment complex. The couple was found sitting in the back of the vehicle. Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said van’s driver, whose name has not been released, told police he was Edwards’ friend. The driver and a woman in the vehicle reportedly convinced Edwards to turn himself in, authorities said.
“This couple … I told them I’m going to get them a gift card for gas because they did a tremendous job,” Kelly said.
Authorities asked the man to drive the van downtown to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, where it was searched. Kelly said there are still many questions about whether Edwards and Bruce committed any other crimes during the 72 hours they were on the run, and where they were staying. Bruce reportedly told investigators they stayed under a stairwell, but Kelly didn’t indicate where. Edwards did not resist when he was arrested, and Kelly said he has not provided much information since his arrest.
‘All I care is that she’s alive’
As she entered the sheriff’s office Friday night, Tammy Bruce, the teen’s mother, said “all I care is that she’s alive.”
“I just want to tell her I love her, no questions. I love you unconditionally,” she said.
Edwards was already wanted on a felony warrant for fleeing and eluding when he allegedly sped off from deputies who tried to stop him Tuesday night at the intersection of Bechtle Avenue and Shaffer Street in Springfield. The Clark County Prosecutor’s Office will also add a charge of interference of custody, a first-degree misdemeanor, for fleeing with the teen, though Bruce went willingly with him. A judge is expected to set bond today in the Clark County Jail. Prosecutor Andy Wilson said he will ask the judge for a high bond.
Meanwhile, Bruce is being held in the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of complicity to interference with custody and inducing panic, Kelly said.
After hearing the news of her friend’s return, 14-year-old Shayla Parsley convinced her parents to let her go see her at the jail. Even though her friend had fled with Edwards in September, Parsley said she didn’t expect her to go missing again.
“I was shocked. It blew my mind completely,” she said. “I’m glad she’s back and hopefully this never happens again.”
Edwards was set to go to trial March 4 on six counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and interference with custody for an alleged relationship he had with Bruce last year. He was arrested Sept. 26 after an AMBER Alert was issued when he allegedly took Bruce from her Clark County bus stop. He posted the $50,000 bond set in that case Dec. 27, through Castle Bail Bonds. A bond revocation hearing has been set for Monday morning in Clark County Common Pleas Court.