COWLEY COUNTY — If the home intruder near Udall was the same man who is a suspect in the shooting of a Butler County sheriff’s deputy, he slipped away again.
Cowley County Undersheriff Jeff Moore decided to end the search at 6 p.m. after more than eight hours of scouring a rugged area about nine miles southeast of Udall after a woman reported a man broke into her home.
About 40 law enforcement officers – using dogs, helicopters and all-terrain vehicles – spent the day searching for the man they think was Jan Tracy Kilbourne, who was injured when he exchanged gunfire with the deputy early Monday morning just west of Augusta.
Authorities weren’t certain whether the man they were looking for Wednesday is Kilbourne.
“We can’t say for sure this was our guy,” Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said. “The common sense in me wants to say it was, but the homeowner never saw him eye to eye.”
Nearly 100 law enforcement officers spent more than 12 hours Monday searching for Kilbourne in the area around the shooting, but Herzet called that effort off after concluding the suspect had escaped the four-square-mile search area.
“If this was our guy,” Herzet said of Wednesday’s search, “he’s hard to catch.”
He said he also has detectives in Liberal and Hutchinson searching for Kilbourne because the suspect has connections to those areas. Fifteen Butler County deputies took part in the Cowley County search
“We’re getting tired,” Herzet said, “but we know what we have to do. We’ll keep after it.”
Authorities got some fingerprints from the woman’s house, but Herzet said they weren’t good enough to determine whether they matched those of Kilbourne.
“We don’t know who he is right now,” Moore said earlier in the day.
But given that the location of the break-in was only about 20 miles south of the shooting and that it was just two days after the incident, authorities concluded it was prudent to assume it could be Kilbourne.
The search area reached four to six square miles before being reduced late in the afternoon, Udall Police Chief Erik King said.
‘Little freaked out’
The search began after authorities received a report from a woman who said she arrived at her Cowley County home about 9:30 a.m. and saw a man bolting from her basement through an outside door.
The description the woman gave of the man was consistent “in some aspects” to Kilbourne, Moore said.
The man was wearing different clothes. The white male who broke into the house was wearing a navy blue shirt and cut-off blue jeans. Kilbourne was wearing a red shirt, blue jeans and black biker boots when he shot the deputy.
But Moore noted that was a couple of days ago and Kilbourne could have changed clothes.
In any case, Moore said, “I know that we’re hunting a suspect that was in a house down there.”
The woman said she didn’t want to talk about the intruder.
“I’m a little freaked out,” she said.
Jon Giddens, the woman’s father, who lives nearby, said authorities asked him to come home from work in Wichita so they could review his security cameras.
Giddens said they didn’t find anything useful. His daughter’s house doesn’t have security cameras, he said.
He said his daughter’s husband was at work and their children at school when she came home to what she thought was an empty house. She told him that she heard a noise in the basement and started walking downstairs when the man took off.
“She said he didn’t take anything,” Giddens said. “It looked like he got a drink and laid down for a while. She said it looks like he was more interested in finding a place to rest.”
There were no signs the intruder forced his way into the house, and he didn’t make overt threats to the woman, Moore said.
He said authorities arrived at the woman’s house 10 to 15 minutes after the man left. The man took off in a southeasterly direction, he added.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m. the woman’s husband sat in a truck at the end of his driveway. He declined to speak about what transpired at his home Wednesday, but expressed thanks for his wife’s safety and law enforcement’s work.
“They did the best job that they could do with what they had to work with today,” he said. “Very professional and understanding and reassuring and kind.”
Officers went door-to-door in the area and searched fields, Moore said.
There were times when the officers thought they might be closing in on the suspect. Shortly after 2 p.m., scanner traffic indicated officers had spotted footprints where they wouldn’t normally be expected.
But nothing came of it, so they kept searching the area covered with dense tree lines and large rock outcroppings.
Officers came from most of the area agencies, including Wichita police, Kansas and sheriff deputies from Sedgwick, Kingman, Butler and Cowley counties.
Authorities said that Kilbourne, 41, is suspected of shooting the deputy after the deputy stopped a suspicious car near U.S. 54 and Santa Fe Lake Road at 5:15 a.m. Monday.
The bullet hit the deputy in the shoulder area, but his bulletproof vest stopped the full impact. The deputy returned fire, wounding the suspect, who ran off and apparently escaped an intense search on the ground and from the air on Monday.
Records show that Kilbourne, who has a lengthy criminal record, had absconded from his probation supervision in Seward County.
The injured deputy, who is off from work to recuperate and relax, was scheduled to be interviewed Wednesday by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to document what happened, Herzet said.
Herzet asked that anyone with information about the case call investigators at 316-322-4257.
Contributing: Amy Renee Leiker of The Eagle