A Washington man is in custody after a four-hour search took place Monday morning that caused Lonedell School on Highway FF in southeast Franklin County to be locked down as a precaution.
Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said that David Utz, 36, was taken into custody at about 11 a.m. on Monday on an active warrant for his arrest on felony drug charges. Utz was captured without incident near Elmwood Church between Highway FF and Highway 47.
It is believed Utz is a suspect who on Sunday night escaped on foot after deputies discovered a methamphetamine lab on Highway 47 near the Washington County border. A Lonedell male and St. Clair female were taken into custody after the meth lab was discovered. Their names have not been released.
According to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, at about 6:05 a.m. on Monday, a resident on Elmwood Church Road east of Highway 47 reported seeing someone tampering with her vehicle. Just prior to deputies' arrival, the subject was able to start the vehicle and drive it away.
The sheriff's report said deputies chased the person driving the vehicle east to Elmwood Church, and a deputy was in that position with road spikes. When the individual saw the deputy, he crashed the vehicle into a tree and fled on foot.
Deputies were searching for the suspect between Elmwood Church and Weida roads between Highway 47 and Highway FF. Lonedell School is located on Highway FF north of the search area.
Early in the day, deputies visited Lonedell School and informed staff there of the incident and manhunt. As a precaution, the school went on lockdown status.
A phone blast was issued at about 9:30 a.m. informing parents and patrons of the situation. At the time, the blast said all exterior and classroom doors at the school were locked from the inside and that students would not be going outside for recess as a precaution.
The lockdown was lifted and a second phone blast issued announcing the all-clear at about 11 a.m. after Utz was in custody.
Before he was captured, the individual authorities were looking for was described as a white male. When he fled, he was wearing dark-colored pants or sweats, an orange hooded sweatshirt and had a gray sweatshirt tied around his waist.
Deputies did locate an orange hoodie while searching the area. Another shirt was observed from the air by authorities riding in the Franklin County Air Unit. A K-9 unit from Jefferson County also aided in the search.
Toelke said Utz was located both by a deputy taking part in the ground search and deputies in the air. He was located about 300 yards from the church.
For any additional details, see the Wednesday Missourian.