Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

National Guard Joins Manhunt in Ozarks

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

National Guard Joins Manhunt in Ozarks

Article excerpt

Military police joined civilian law officers Saturday in fanning out through rural Benton County, aiming to match wits and backwoods skills with elusive triple murder suspect Alis Ben Johns.

"It's just a matter of time before we get him," Missouri Highway Patrol Cpl. Dan Green told reporters in the afternoon.

Members of the Missouri National Guard's 1139th military police company, activated Friday by Gov. Mel Carnahan, worked with officers in searching houses, outbuildings and countryside. They manned the many roadblocks dotting secondary byways, weapons drawn as they checked vehicles. Green said there have been no confirmed sightings in recent days of Johns, 36, and Beverly Guehrer-McComb, 37, believed to be his girlfriend. Johns' skill as a woodsman is "definitely working to his benefit," Green said. "But we've got a lot of experienced people." Johns has been on the run since he was charged in Pulaski County with first-degree murder in last October's killing of Tommy Stewart, 32, of Dixon. He is suspected also in the Feb. 28 killing of farmer Leonard Voyles, 69, of Richland, and of Wilma Bragg, 57, of Newton County the following weekend. Both were shot and their homes burglarized. On Saturday, the search was concentrated in a 20-mile radius around a white-framed house that Johns burglarized, Green said. The break-in was discovered Thursday night at the house, some six miles outside a two-square-mile area where officers had thought they had Johns cornered. Green said Johns took a tent, a rain slicker and some .22-caliber ammunition from the house. Investigators found the fugitive's fingerprints on some window glass. "We're assuming he's armed and .22-caliber is his weapon of choice," Green said. Heavy rain hindered the search Saturday morning, but clearing skies later in the day allowed helicopters to resume scouring the wooded, hilly countryside. The National Guard company, based in Harrisonville, added more than 60 personnel to the manhunt, bringing the total complement of searchers to about 300 - split in half on 12-hour shifts. For the Johns manhunt, Guardsmen brought 10 Humvee vehicles and were each carrying an M-16 assault rifle and 9mm pistol. …

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