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California fire chief arrested in stabbing death

Image Source: AP Photo Image Source: AP Photo

By DON THOMPSON
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Despite reported sightings as distant as Los Angeles and Oregon, a former California fire battalion chief suspected in the stabbing death of his girlfriend never moved far from home as he eluded capture for more than two weeks, authorities said Friday.

Orville "Moe" Fleming was arrested after a detective spotted him boarding a public bus around noon as he apparently went looking for food, said homicide Detective Brian Meux.

He had shaved his moustache, changed his clothes, wore a hat and had been hiding in dense vegetation, avoiding capture despite multiple searches of the area using aircraft and tracking dogs.

Fleming "was basically hidden in plain sight," Meux said. "He was a lone survivor for those 16 days."

He was dirty and disheveled but was arrested unarmed and without incident near where he had abandoned his official California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection pickup in a Sacramento suburb May 1.

That's the same day deputies found the body of Sarah June Douglas inside the south Sacramento she had shared with Fleming for the past two years. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said the 26-year-old was "brutally stabbed" and detectives found "a horrific crime scene."

Fleming is now cooperating with investigators and has not retained a lawyer, Meux said.

Investigators had feared that Fleming, 55, would use his unique skills and tools to escape into a remote area. Fleming has considerable outdoor skills, was familiar with California's mountains because of his career as a wildland firefighter, and had keys to state fire facilities throughout the state.

Yet there was no sign that Fleming used those skills, Meux and Jones said, other than a blind determination to avoid capture.

He was fired from his job as a battalion chief and fire academy instructor after failing to show up at work for a week after the slaying.

"We are pleased that this search is over and the sheriff's office has apprehended Mr. Fleming," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "We will continue to support the sheriff and the district attorney in any way we can as the judicial process continues."

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