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Ex-California Fire Chief Arrested In Girlfriend's Murder

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[May 17, 2014]  By Sharon Bernstein
 
 SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - A former California state fire chief suspected of murdering his live-in girlfriend and then evading capture for two weeks was arrested on Friday, Sacramento County authorities said.

Investigators had been searching for Orville "Moe" Fleming, 55, since May 1, when his 26-year-old girlfriend, Sarah Douglas, was found stabbed to death at the home they shared in Sacramento.

A detective from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department spotted Fleming just as he was boarding a bus in South Sacramento. Detectives took him into custody at about 12:30 Pacific Time, after he verified his own identity and told the detectives he planned to cooperate with them, said Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones.

Shortly after his arrest, Fleming gave a full statement to investigators, in which he confessed to stabbing Douglas in their home, Jones said.

"This was a domestic violence homicide," said chief investigator Brian Meux. "Despite all the other parts of this case, his employment and the manhunt, it really does just boil down to that."

Fleming was fired last week as a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for failing to show up since the day before the murder.
 


Investigators said he told them he had been hiding in a heavily vegetated area near where he was arrested. They said he may have left his hiding space for a brief period to find food and clothing.

The incident came just over a year after former Los Angeles policeman Christopher Dorner fled into the Southern California mountains after a murderous rampage targeting other officers and their families. That case ended with Dorner being killed in a standoff.

Investigators last week said they thought the former battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) might be hiding in California's massive mountain ranges or the picturesque Yosemite Valley.

"It is a scenario where he was basically hidden in plain sight," Meux said.

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Meanwhile, investigators had spoken with several people who worked as escorts in the Sacramento area and were believed to have known Fleming, said Sergeant Lisa Bowman, spokeswoman for the Sacramento Sheriff's office.

The former battalion chief was "very active" on the escort website "My Redbook," and detectives were trying to piece together information on his lifestyle and history, she said.

Last week, the department said someone from the escort service may have helped Fleming evade capture, but on Friday investigators said they were confident he had not reached out to anyone during his two-weeks in hiding.

Investigators had feared the former fire chief's familiarity with the California back country would have allowed him to hide in the mountains and wilderness areas, Bowman said.

Fleming also had the means to access fire roads and was originally believed to be armed, but investigators said Friday that he had been unarmed and hadn't traveled far from his abandoned car.

(Additional reporting by Jennifer Chaussee; Editing by Edith Honan and Ken Wills)

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