Iowa murder suspects caught in Pensacola

Published Jul. 1, 1997|Updated Oct. 1, 2005

Two fugitive stepbrothers from Iowa who are suspects in two killings and a bank robbery in Iowa were arrested Monday in Florida after eluding a nationwide search.

Christopher Kauffman, 18, and Jamie McMahan, 22, were arrested in Pensacola after a woman saw the 1997 green Dodge Dakota pickup truck they had been driving for nearly three weeks and called authorities. A description of the vehicle and crime had been aired twice on the Fox TV show America's Most Wanted.

"I guess they didn't use very much common sense, in my opinion," Sheriff Charles Van Toorn told a throng of reporters outside the law enforcement center in Mahaska County, Iowa.

The suspects had been on the run since June 11. That day, within 4{ hours, two women were shot execution-style and a bank was robbed.

News of the capture spread quickly through the town of 10,900 people. Scores of people, including children and young teens, joined reporters to listen in on Van Toorn's news conference.

"We've been horrified. We've been keeping our doors locked this whole time, but I think everybody feels safer now," said Eileen Schwab, who stood in the sweltering heat to listen to the sheriff.

Kauffman and McMahan are charged in the June 11 shooting death of Barbara Garber, 52, of What Cheer. They are also suspects in the fatal shooting of Island Schultz, 18, of Gibson and the robbery of the Gibson Savings Bank.

The crimes occurred within 5 miles of one another. Authorities say the suspects fled with two Oskaloosa girls, Mandi Smith, 17, and Amanda Miller 16, in Garber's new pickup.

Smith and Miller, who told police they were unaware of the crime rampage while the foursome visited Walt Disney World and Branson, Mo., returned to Oskaloosa on June 21 by train. Authorities haven't ruled out charges.

In Florida, Lisa Lagergren of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office said a woman recognized the truck's license plate while driving on Interstate 10 and called the sheriff's office.

"We were just kind of looking for a needle in a haystack," Lagergren said. "Our patrols started looking for the vehicle."

An officer found the truck at a motel. Chuck Wood, an agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said at a news conference in Des Moines that the suspects had removed the Iowa license plate from the front.

Negotiations took "some period of time" and three people were eventually led from the motel room: the two suspects and a man later determined to be a hitchhiker, Wood said. The man was released without charges.

Officials also said they would immediately begin efforts to return McMahan and Kauffman to Iowa, where they are expected to face first-degree murder charges in Schultz's death and federal bank robbery charges, among others.