Ohio fugitive who is suspect in Miami murder caught in Kansas

Michael Douglas Evans
Michael Douglas Evans

Federal agents tracking a fugitive from Ohio — who is also wanted for questioning in a murder in Miami — found him in a Motel 6 in Kansas, ending an almost two-month search for Michael Douglas Evans, his wife, and her young child.

The Thursday night capture of Evans, 30, concluded an almost 3,000-mile trek that had law enforcement on its heels from the small county of Tuscarawas, Ohio, to sprawling Miami, and back up to the midwest’s little Hays, Kansas.

Evans gave up without a fight, police said. Also taken into custody were his wife Kristy Evans, 34, and her daughter, Jala Barnett, 7. Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Orvis Campbell said Jala was handed over to children’s services in Kansas, and he’s hoping she’ll be returned to Ohio soon.

“What caught the eyes of investigators was a call that originated in Colorado,” Campbell said.

A cell phone call finally led to Evan’s capture — but not one from a phone owned by Evans or his wife. Police, deducing the couple would eventually call friends, got lucky with one in Colorado who admitted Evans or his wife contacted him Tuesday.

Police traced that call to a man who had stayed at the Motel 6 in Hays. The man said he gave Kristy Evans his cellphone after she asked if she could use it. The man was then able to identify the family to police after viewing pictures. When police arrived at the motel, Evans and his family were still there.

Evans was awaiting trial in Ohio earlier this year on charges that he smashed a man repeatedly with a hammer when he cut free from an electronic ankle bracelet. He is also wanted for questioning in the early June murder of Joseph Everett Moniz, 46, at the Sun Aire Motel in Flagami. Moniz was found murdered in the same room in which Evans and his family were staying. When police arrived, the family had already fled.

Miami Police Detective Kenia Fallat said police anticipate speaking with Evans and his wife about the murder of Moniz. She wasn’t certain if Evans will eventually be extradited to Miami. U.S. marshals who captured Evans said Miami detectives were on their way to Kansas Friday. The federal agency also called Evans “the primary suspect” in the Moniz murder.

Police believe Evans and his wife amassed enough money when they fled Ohio in early May to avoid using credit cards for a while. And even though police believe Evans stole Moniz’s 2005 Audi convertible, they were unable to track it through tolls and video surveillance. Marshals found the missing Audi at the Motel 6 and confiscated the vehicle as evidence.

Evans, who married Kristy Evans while serving a prison a term in Ohio last year on burglary charges, was arrested by Tuscarawas County police earlier this year on attempted murder charges after bashing a man with a hammer close to two dozen times. He was placed on house arrest and moved into his grandmother’s home with his wife and her daughter.

In early May he somehow cut off an electronic ankle bracelet with a GPS tracking device. Police believe he gathered several thousand dollars, and that Evans and his wife then picked up Jala at school and fled the state in a 2001 Ford Escort. The search intensified when police said they were concerned for Jala’s safety. Family in Ohio, worried about the little girl, asked for the public’s help.

Police, however, couldn’t find any sign of the family until they were called to the Sun Aire Motel on West Flagler Street two weeks ago when Moniz’s body was discovered. Police believe that Evans and his wife have an issue with drugs, particularly heroin. They said Moniz was a known drug user who had been arrested on drug charges several times. The hotel worker who found Moniz was knocking on the motel room door trying to collect rent from Evans.

When police realized that Moniz’s Audi was missing from the scene, they worked under the assumption that the family fled in his car. But — at least publicly — police said there was no sign of the family until Thursday night in Hays, Kansas, when they traced the cellphone call to the Motel 6.