Portage County most wanted list used to apprehend fugitives

Nick Baker

Portage county

From the federal to the municipal stage, law enforcement agencies use most wanted lists of high-risk fugitives in the hopes that citizens or other law enforcement agencies can assist in their arrests.

From the federal to the municipal stage, law enforcement agencies use most wanted lists of high-risk fugitives in the hopes that citizens or other law enforcement agencies can assist in their arrests. ?

?Those on most wanted lists have been identified by the pursuing agencies for a number of reasons, including the potential for violence.

According to detective Susan Hillegas of the Portage County Sheriff’s Department, all on the list have been charged with felonies, and after an individual fails to appear in court for sentencing, he or she can be added to the list.

?“They are all ‘failure to appear’ because we can’t do secret indictments, so we issue warrants. Everybody that’s on there knows they have that warrant,” Hillegas said.

In Portage County, the list is updated every two weeks. Hillegas said that the response rate is generally great, and said the department usually apprehends a couple of these fugitives with each update.

“Of those 10 people we put up, we usually get two or three every two weeks,” she said. So if we can knock out a couple each time, that’s pretty good.”??

Maintaining most wanted lists is essentially a cost-free and convenient way to relay information on fugitives to the public, especially with the use of technology. Information can be submitted to the sheriff’s department through e-mail, which is addressed directly to Sheriff David Doak.

“It doesn’t cost anything to put it online,” Hillegas said. “It takes me about a half-hour.”?

Cooperation between different enforcement agencies is essential in the use of these lists, and Hillegas said that cooperation helps all agencies apprehend fugitives. This cooperation exists between counties and municipalities, between counties and with the U.S. Marshals Service.”

“Now and then, Kent will call us and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got one through our department. Can you put it on your top 10?’” Hillegas said. “We’ve done that.

“The marshals help us a lot,” Hillegas said. “Everybody looks at those top 10s. A lot of our top 10 are in Akron. They have crimes committed in Portage County, but a lot of them live in Akron. The U.S. Marshals help us a lot.”??

Inspector Bill Holland of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office detective bureau said that many times these individuals are considered to be high flight risks as well, so maintaining most wanted lists allows for the potential to apprehend fugitives before they get away.?“

These lists know no jurisdiction, no boundaries,” Holland said, “because these fugitives know no jurisdiction and no boundaries.”??

Because different agencies make their lists available on the Internet, cooperating agencies can post other most wanted lists or add fugitives from other jurisdictions to their lists.

Aside from being listed because of the potential danger these individuals present to the community, geography also plays a role in determining who makes the list.

“The people who make that list,” Holland said, “Some are considered to be dangerous. Some are considered to be flight risks. But if anyone has any association with Summit County we can add them to the list.”?

While Portage County’s most wanted list has individuals from different counties in the state, it is almost always the case that the crime was committed in Portage County if they make the list. ??

If a fugitive has lived, frequently spent time in or even associates with others in a certain county on a regular basis, it is possible he or she could be added.

The use of these lists may ease the burden on overworked law enforcement agencies, and agencies at the federal, state and city levels use them use similar lists.

“We find that it’s very effective,” Holland said. “We only have so many law enforcement officers. So to have these most wanted lists, not just here but across the country, and to have the information online, it has really helped. We have seen it be effective in the past.”??

One example of the effectiveness of most wanted lists is the case of Homer J. Wilson.

?On Sept. 25, Wilson of Mantua was arrested and charged with theft, receiving stolen property and forgery. On Oct. 15, Wilson was released on a personal recognizance bond.

He was scheduled to be in court for arraignment on Nov. 30 but failed to appear. On Dec. 1, the Portage County Sheriff’s Department issued a warrant for his arrest. He was arrested without incident by the Sandusky Police Department on Jan. 7 and brought back to Portage County.

Hillegas said it was the most wanted list that allowed the Sandusky Police Department to track down Wilson. Wilson had family in the area and was staying with them, and police recognized his name.

“I don’t know why Sandusky PD is looking at our top 10, but they looked at our top ten and one of our guys was out that way, and they got him,” Hillegas said.

Wilson was arraigned the day after his arrest, but was released on personal recognizance again and bond was set at $75,000. Wilson must remain in Portage County at all times as part of the new arrangement, and his new trial begins April 13.

Contact public affairs reporter Nick Baker at [email protected].