A man who disappeared from Tampa the day his girlfriend was found dead pulled off Interstate 59 in Mississippi Friday evening, police say, to switch license plates on a stolen gold 2000 Lexus.
Steven P. Clark took Exit 90 near Laurel, in Jones County, and drove by a junkyard and a church. Then he stopped at the Pine Belt Mental Health facility, where he pried a Mississippi license plate off a state-owned passenger van, police said.
Apparently he didn't notice the county jail next door.
Employees at the Jones County Adult Detention Facility saw a man crouching behind a car at the mental health facility and pointed him out to county sheriff's Lt. Wayne Black.
Black arrested Clark, 22, after a computer search showed Clark was wanted in Florida.
"We just walked him into the jail," Black said.
Hillsborough sheriff's deputies had been searching for Clark since Thursday, when they found the body of Karen Osorio-Cruz hidden in a wooded area in New Tampa.
Osorio-Cruz, a 40-year-old mother of two, had previously accused Clark of stabbing her in May, but prosecutors dropped the charges at her request.
Deputies found her body after a series of phone calls from residents at Andover Apartments along Cross Creek Boulevard. One couple reported that their Lexus was missing, along with Clark, who had been staying with them. Authorities who found Osorio-Cruz's body said the upper torso had been traumatized, but would not offer specifics.
Clark has been charged with grand theft auto, said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Clark will be questioned about Osorio-Cruz's death, but has not been charged in that case.
Hillsborough sheriff's detectives are on the way to Jones County, in southeastern Mississippi, to question Clark, Carter said.
Clark has been arrested several times in recent years, and was released from state prison in January after serving about two years for battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and disorderly conduct.
Clark did not put up a struggle Friday.
Lt. Black, an officer for 18 years, said the arrest is the first time he's walked a suspect to jail. He said the red brick, one-story jail, the only one along the interstate for several counties, doesn't stand out until you're in front of it.
"I don't think it was his day," Black said.