TV 'mystery' ends in Canadian capture of 2

October 19, 1990|By Roger Twigg

Nancy G. Mitchell says managing the Beach Motor Motel, an inn on the shores of Lake Ontario in Canada, with her husband, Joseph, consumes nearly all of their time.

So, it was just "by chance" Wednesday night that they turned on the television set to catch the final minutes of "Unsolved Mysteries," which was airing information on two fugitives from Maryland.

"The moment we saw their pictures, we knew we had them in Room 12," Mrs. Mitchell said yesterday. "They registered here three weeks ago as Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith."

Mrs. Mitchell called police, who surrounded the motel and entered the room.

But the two fugitives -- Sandra Kay Beeman, 46, a guard at the Allegany County Detention Center, and Edgar Eugene Kerns, 30, whom she is accused of helping to escape Aug. 29 from the jail in Cumberland -- apparently were watching the same program in their room.

"Apparently, they saw the pictures of themselves and took off," Mrs. Mitchell said.

After learning that the fugitives did not have a car, police questioned local cab company officials, who said the couple had traveled by cab five miles south to the Red Rose Motel in Hamilton, Ontario.

Police arrested Ms. Beeman and Kerns at the motel just after 3 a.m. yesterday without incident, said Staff Sgt. Robert L. Buck of the Hamiton-Wentworth Regional Police Department.

"We heard a lot of scrambling in the room, so we forced the door," Sergeant Buck said.

Police said Ms. Beeman and Kerns had little money and few belongings when captured. Kerns had shaved his beard and mustache, they said.

Still, Mrs. Mitchell said that the two were easily identified from photographs shown on television.

Staff Sergeant Buck said that when Mrs. Mitchell called police about 9 p.m. Wednesday, they knew nothing about the fugitives and could not reach the television program because the 800 number shown on the screen is not accessible from Canada.

They learned the details of the case by watching a tape of "Unsolved Mysteries," made by an officer who usually watches the show but taped it because he had to work Wednesday night.

Sergeant Buck said Ms. Beeman and Kerns had been charged in Ontario with failing to pay for four days' lodging at the Beach Motel and with fraudulent motel registration, pending information from Maryland authorities and the FBI.

In Maryland, Kerns is charged with escape and Ms. Beeman is charged with aiding and abetting an escape, Maryland authorities said.

They are being held at the Hamilton Ontario lockup while investigators probe their financial dealings, Sergeant Buck said.

It's not clear how the fugitives spent their time or supported themselves, he said. Edward E. McFarland, a spokesman at the Allegany County Jail, said the jail authorities were "elated" to hear of the capture and would work with the FBI and state's attorney's office to begin extradition proceedings.

"We didn't expect it to be that quick," said Mr. McFarland, who noted that jail officials had worked with "Unsolved Mysteries" to produce the program. "It took a long time to get that set up. It was supposed to have aired on Oct. 3, but it was moved up to Wednesday."

Maryland authorities suspected Ms. Beeman and Kerns had gone to Canada, based on telephone surveillance of their friends and relatives, Mr. McFarland said.

Kerns had been awaiting sentencing in Cumberland for grand larceny and writing bad checks. A second Cumberland jail inmate, James Vernon Barnes, 35, who was awaiting trial on kidnapping and sex offense charges, had escaped with the pair, but he was captured Sept. 2 in Romney, W.Va., authorities said.

Authorities first thought the two men had taken Ms. Beeman hostage, but they considered her a fugitive after she reportedly telephoned her daughter in Frostburg saying, "I'm fine. I'm with him."

Mrs. Mitchell said that when Ms. Beeman and Kerns checked in Oct. 1, they asked if police made many checks of the motel.

She said they had been paying the $39.90 for each night's lodging in cash but owed for four days when they left.

"This really was by chance," she said. "We don't get much time to watch TV."

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