FULTON, Mo. | A man already facing theft charges was captured Thursday as a suspect in a series of fatal central Missouri shootings that had prompted police to warn anyone associated with him to flee the area.
Joshua William Maylee, 23, was taken into custody about 1:30 p.m. after approaching a residence on foot in Cooper County, several dozen miles west of where the shootings occurred, said Sgt. Robert Bruchsaler of the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad.
Authorities have not discussed specific motives for the shootings, but records obtained by The Associated Press indicate one of the victims had received a stolen lawnmower from Maylee. He has not been charged in connection with the shootings that left three people dead and one wounded, but police have said they want to question him.
"Every victim was connected to him from negative dealings in the past," Bruchsaler said Thursday evening. He declined to elaborate.
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Before Maylee was captured, Bruchsaler encouraged people who had past encounters with him to contact law officers and move to a safe location.
"If they feel that their lives are in danger because of past dealings with Mr. Maylee, they need to find accommodations elsewhere," Bruchsaler said earlier Thursday. It was unclear how many people may have heeded the warning.
A gunman killed Eugene Pinet, 48, and his 57-year-old wife Jackie at their home in the Holts Summit area early Wednesday. Jeffrey Werdehausen, 46, also was killed and his wife Gina, 41, was injured in a shooting at their home in the same area.
Police said the killings were not random but have declined to say why the victims may have been targeted. Bruchsaler has said the gunman used a high-powered rifle and a handgun, and that authorities believed he acted alone.
Bruchsaler said Maylee, of Holts Summit, went to the Cooper County residence where he was apprehended seeking assistance with minor injuries to his hand and foot. He was recognized by deputies who responded to a call for medical attention, was unarmed and acknowledged his identity when questioned. Bruchsaler said he didn't believe Maylee knew the home's resident.
Maylee faces two felony theft charges, one of which was filed Wednesday after the shootings occurred. A police probable cause statement in that case says Maylee stole a lawnmower, valued at around $10,000, from a home in Kingdom City on Oct. 15, 2009.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Clark says in the document that Maylee told police in a July 20 interview that he put the lawn mower in an enclosed trailer and took it to Eugene Pinet's home. The lawn mower was recovered under a search warrant two days later, the document says.
It is not clear from court documents whether Pinet knew the mower was stolen.
Clark declined to comment Thursday. So did Callaway County Prosecutor Robert Sterner, who filed the theft charge. Bruchsaler said he did not have firsthand knowledge about the theft investigation.
On Oct. 4, Maylee also had been charged with theft for allegedly stealing a tractor from Holts Summit resident William Essen on March 24, 2009. Clark said in a probable cause statement that Maylee "confessed to stealing the tractor" and told police he kept it at his house for several weeks before taking it to Ashland, Mo., where it sold for $2,500. The document does not say who bought the tractor.
Essen told the AP on Thursday that he does not know Maylee and was unaware anyone had been charged with stealing his tractor, for which he paid about $14,000 in 2004.
"If somebody bought it for $2,000, that would be suspect — somebody would know it was not right. It was in good condition," Essen said.
The probable cause document includes a section on whether there are any facts indicating the defendant will not appear on a summons or poses a danger to the victim, the community or any other person. Clark wrote that there were none.
Police tape on Thursday blocked a gravel road leading to a property near where the Werdehausens lived off a twisty, unpaved road that cut through woodland. At the Pinets' address, police tape was attached to a fence and a tractor-trailer in front of a mobile home.