Fugitives#039; run ends near Mexico

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2002

For the residents of the Gantt community, it is over.

For the Sheriff's Department, only one chapter is over. The hardest work lies ahead.

The two-week search for Covington County Jail escapees Oscar Doster and Bobby O'Lee Phillips came to an end Monday afternoon as the two were apprehended in Texas. Covington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Elliott King made the announcement at a news conference at the County Administration Building.

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"At approximately 2:45(p.m.), we were notified by the Texas Department of Public Safety that their highway patrol had stopped the (1984 F-150) truck with the escapees in it," said King. "(The truck) was on I-10 near the town of Ozona, between San Antonio and El Paso. The details are sketchy, but (Doster and Phillips) are in the Crockett County Jail on our escape warrants and we have investigators en route and they will speak (with Texas officials)."

King said the truck stopped was the same truck which was allegedly stolen on Nov. 6, the same night that a Gantt resident, Paul LeMaster, was found fatally shot.

He said he has no immediate

knowledge of where Doster and Phillips were en route to when they were stopped.

"The NCIC (National Crime Information Center) computer (was implemented) as someone ran the tag, and it came back to the stolen vehicle, and they were also wanted for questioning for murder," said King. "It was our input with the NCIC, and once the deputy ran it, it came back with our hit. According to one of the troopers that I spoke with, he stated that they did not resist."

"A deputy in Sutton County (Texas) saw a vehicle, a 1984 Ford F150 pickup truck, in a roadside park outside Sonora on I-10," said PCO Glenda Capps with the Texas Department of Public Safety. "He said something just was not right about the people and the vehicle so he ran the plates. The system was running slow so the hit' did not come back until about five minutes later after he had already left (the roadside park). When the hit came back, (Doster and Phillips) had already left when he returned (to the park) The Sonora County Sheriff's Department then called the state troopers and I dispatched the information.

"Senior Trooper Don Van Zandt saw the vehicle and he hit his lights and siren near mile marker 376 about eight miles east of Ozona. I just looked at the tape and (the fugitives) just very calmly pulled over. He (Van Zandt) got out with a shotgun. (The fugitives) got out with their arms up and lay down in the ditch."

Capps added that the truck in which the fugitives were traveling has been secured for Covington County with Covington officials scheduled to head to Texas today.

King said he was unsure about when or if extradition for Doster and Phillips back to Covington County might occur.

"Right now, (the two escapees) are being held on the escape charges, but we will have to speak to (Covington County District Attorney Eugenia Loggins) and sit down with all of the investigators and see what all evidence we do have before formally charging them," said King.

King said although three people have already been arrested for aiding the escapees, if it is discovered that additional persons may have also hindered the fugitives' capture in any way, charges will be brought against them.

"We have been working with the U.S. Marshals on numerous tips outside of the state, and some of those tips have led us in the right direction, but they were just one step ahead of us," said King. "We lucked up on this (tip)."

"I am extremely happy and hope everyone can breathe a sigh of relief," said King. "All of the citizens of the county should be able to sleep better tonight."

King said the area which Doster and Phillips were captured was an area before Interstate 10 and 20 converge, and probably no more than a couple of miles from the border of Mexico.

"We do not know if (Mexico) is where they were headed or not," said King.

King said as far as he knew, Investigators Walter Inabinett and Scott Conner were traveling to Texas, and apparently were in contact with Alabama Bureau of Investigation officials as their plans were being finalized for the trip to Texas.

Owens said the overwhelming feeling in Gantt is one of relief following the captures of the two escapees and possible murderers.

"I have already had numerous residents contacting me and spreading the word that (Doster and Phillips) have been caught, and several residents expressed extreme joy and comfort in knowing that they are back behind bars," said Owens.

A press conference was held earlier Monday afternoon, and during that session, which also included remarks by Clark, Loggins, Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White and new jail administrator Motley, King had said he felt the search was close to concluding.