Southeast Missouri fugitive captured after two months on the run

Thursday, September 16, 2010

ELLSINORE, Mo. -- After more than two months, the manhunt is over for an Ellsinore man accused of firing shots into a mobile home at Hunter, Mo.

The Daily American Republic reported Phillip W. Catlett Jr., 37, was in the Carter County Justice Center Tuesday after his arrest at about 6:45 p.m. Monday on warrants for assault, child endangerment and parole violation.

Catlett, who is accused of firing shots into the trailer home of Daniel Manis in the city limits of Hunter, allegedly has been on the run from authorities since July.

"The adventure (with Catlett) started back on July 9 over in Hunter when he shot a few rounds into someone's house," Carter County Sheriff Tommy Adams said. " ... When he fled from the scene, he fired two more shots back toward the trailer, which was back toward my two deputies."

Adams said he and his three deputies stayed in the Hunter area and swept almost every house that day.

"Before we contaminated the ground, I had spoken to the Reynolds County canine handler, Deputy (Tom) Stout (who) has an excellent canine," Iback, Adams explained.

Iback, Adams said, was "hot on (Catlett's) trail," and did a good job tracking him until it began to rain heavily.

Since that day, "we've had at least 100 anonymous calls on the call log, telling us he's on H Highway, County Road 327 (or) been seen in the area," explained Adams. "Regardless, if we thought they were bogus, we responded to every, single call. ... We came close a few times, but could never catch him."

Until his capture Monday, the closest officers came was during the first week of September when he was spotted at a Ripley County residence, Adams said.

Catlett's girlfriend, Ruby James, who was subsequently arrested, allegedly led Ripley County officers on a vehicle pursuit back toward Carter County, Adams said.

With Catlett as her passenger, "they got back into Carter County, almost to Hunter," Adams said.

Deputies, Adams said, tried to take control of James' vehicle, which turned onto a dead-end lane off of Highway 21.

"The suspect vehicle was forced to stop on the driver's side," Adams said. "By the time the deputy got around the truck to the passenger side, Phillip had fled from the vehicle and ran down an old logging road."

Catlett, Adams said, lost his ball cap in the process, as well as his LED (light-emitting diode) flashlight about 20 yards from the vehicle. "He still had his rifle in his hand," he said. "It was the closest we got to him."

Ripley County deputies and troopers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to assist in the search, said Adams, who again requested help from Stout and Iback.

"We had a pretty good, hot trail for about two miles," before it started to rain and the trail was lost again, Adams said.

With "all his family" living on the north side of Ellsinore, north of U.S. 60 through the Route H area, "he knows the area very well," Adams said.

At about 5 p.m. Monday, Adams said, authorities received an anonymous call, which indicated Catlett had been seen on County Road 315, which is where his father lives.

Deputies, as well as the Highway Patrol, responded to search for Catlett. "For the third time, we called and asked for assistance from Reynolds County," Adams said.

Their search eventually led them to a mobile home on County Road 328, off of County Road 325, Adams said.

The Highway Patrol did a "knock and talk on the house (Catlett) apparently went into," Adams said.

The occupants, Adams said, let officers in to search and a .22-caliber rifle, which appeared to match the description of the one Catlett was seen with several times, was found, as was a green duffle bag. Catlett also reportedly had been seen with a similar duffle bag.

Adams said he contacted Ripley County authorities since they had more information on the rifle, including an "exact description" and the serial number. "It was a perfect match," he said.

Without tearing the house apart, Adams said, officers searched, but didn't locate Catlett.

"We knew he was there a minute before we arrived; he couldn't have gone anywhere. It would have been impossible for him to leave," Adams explained.

After getting consent to search the home with the canine, Adams said, Iback "got a scent off the duffle bag. ... Phillip had been just back and forth in the house.

"At first, (Iback) was overwhelmed with scents, but went directly to the back room and to the closet."

Officers, Adams said, subsequently found Catlett hiding in the closet with "tons of clothes piled on top of him. ... He had been there maybe 10 minutes from (being seen) on H Highway and (County Road) 315."

When Catlett was ordered out of the closet, Adams said, he allegedly put up a "little bit of resistance (but) not a lot; he knew we was caught."

Because of Carter County's limited resources, Adams said, he is very appreciative of the assistance provided by the Highway Patrol, as well as sheriff's departments in Reynolds and Ripley counties.

Adams said the Highway Patrol assisted on every call that came in. "They have been right there and assisted me and my deputies," he said. " ... If it had not been for Iback, it would have been almost impossible to go in (and search) without tearing the people's house up."

The search for Catlett, according to Adams, has been a "long, hard drawn out" process.

"I thank God we caught him and no one got hurt, no deputies, no citizens," Adams explained. "It was a good feeling to go home (Monday night) and know he is in our custody now and the firearm has been seized."

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