Sunday, October 17, 2010
FBI Agents Stop for Coffee, Find Fugitive in Yulee Disappearance
VINELAND, N.J. -- A former Vineland resident wanted in connection with the disappearance of a Florida man was nabbed here Thursday afternoon by FBI agents taking a coffee break.
FBI agents arrested James Perry Turnage Jr, 44, here Thursday, after spotting him at a local Wawa and then pursuing him in a two-mile chase.
Investigators in Yulee, Fla., think Turnage may have been involved in the disappearance of 51-year-old Kirk Westfall. Nassau County Sheriff Tommy Seagraves said Westfall was last seen Oct. 8 and suspect foul play in his disappearance.
Turnage, who had lived in Vineland several years ago, was staying in a camper on Westfall's property, Seagraves said.
Agents from the FBI's Atlantic City Resident Agency (ACRA) were conducting a fugitive investigation in Vineland for several hours Thursday when they stopped at Wawa on Delsea Drive around 4 p.m. The two agents noticed a customer waiting in line matched a description of Turnage, according to Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, of the FBI's Newark Field Office.
The agents watched the man leave the convenience store and get into a green Buick LeSabre with phony South Carolina license plates, officials said. The officers began following the vehicle and were soon joined by two backup agents in another car, attempting to follow the suspect and arrest him at his next stop. Vineland police responded with additional assistance.
The driver, later identified as Turnage, realized he was being followed and began leading police on a high-speed chase over two miles, finally ending on the same street where he used to live, according to the FBI.
Once Turnage hit a dead-end section of Osborne Avenue, he abandoned the car and took off on foot. He was captured a short time later.
Police found blood inside Westfall's trailer and discovered his green 2003 Buick LeSabre missing. Turnage was named a "person of interest," after he apparently fled north from Florida in Westfall's vehicle, Seagraves said.
The FBI was called for assistance after the investigation revealed Turnage had previous addresses in Vineland and may have been heading here to hide out and look for work, investigators said Friday.
Turnage was spotted Sunday in Chesterfield, S.C., but fled down a dirt road when local police got nearby, Seagraves said. He was possibly visiting family in the area there, officials said.
Two Nassau County detectives flew to New Jersey Friday to meet with FBI officials and interview Turnage at Cumberland County Jail, officials said. He is being held on two no-bail contempt warrants out of Florida and a $2,500 failure to appear warrant out of Millville, jail officials said Friday night.
Seagraves said Turnage had been just released from prison two months ago after serving time for a drug conviction.
"We don't have any motives at the moment - lot of speculations, of course," Seagraves said. "Turnage will be the only one who will be able to cooperate and tell us what happened."
A candlelight vigil was held Friday night with Westfall's family and friends in Yulee, Fla.