Fugitive caught in West Virginia cocktail lounge Bartender helps end 11-day hunt

April 05, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

Randy Eugene McBee had a reputation as a survivalist and man of violence. But during a four-day crime spree in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, McBee, at times relied on his victims for meals and a warm, dry place to stay, authorities said.

In the end, McBee, who reportedly had vowed to take on the police in a shootout, was arrested without incident by West Virginia troopers Saturday night as he sat drinking in a tavern on the outskirts of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Since his escape March 23 from the minimum-security Eastern Pre-Release Unit in Church Hill, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, McBee, 38, has been linked to three rapes, a kidnapping, several burglaries and an armed robbery in a two-state crime spree.

In West Virginia yesterday, Morgan County Magistrate Bonnie Riffle ordered McBee held without bail on charges of kidnapping, armed robbery, grand theft and burglary. McBee was also arraigned in nearby Berkeley County on a charge of being a fugitive.

State Police Sgt. L. D. Bradley, who coordinated the manhunt, said he would be presenting 19 charges against McBee to the Morgan County grand jury tomorrow. McBee was being held in the Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg.

Maryland authorities have charged McBee in warrants with sexual assault, three counts of burglary, robbery and auto theft.

At the height of the manhunt, McBee was being sought by about 50 officers from West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia using helicopters and dogs, said Sgt. J. K. Riffle, of the Martinsburg state police barracks.

McBee returned to his native Berkeley Springs area, where a trail of violence snaked its way through rugged terrain and small towns in Morgan and Berkeley counties.

"We're all greatly relieved that he's been captured," said Pam Jones, co-owner of the Mountain Springs Cafe on Berkeley Springs' main street. Miss Jones said McBee had turned the quiet, relatively crime-free town known for its warm springs and spas upside-down since the escape.

Sergeant Riffle said he had kept track of McBee through a logbook of crime, beginning around noon on Tuesday, when Morgan County deputies found a tan 1990 Volvo, reported stolen from Maryland, near the CSX railroad tracks across the Potomac River from Hancock.

The car belonged to one of three people McBee allegedly held hostage for three hours in Church Hill. During the ordeal, he allegedly raped a woman and stole several weapons.

Sheriff's deputies and state police, using a helicopter, searched the area where the car was found, but McBee had eluded them.

According to Sergeant Riffle, McBee broke into the home of his first West Virginia victim outside Berkeley Springs, in Morgan County, Wednesday afternoon and held two men hostage until 9:30 that night. He left taking money and a 1989 Ford Escort.

The Escort was found early Thursday in Virginia, about four miles from the West Virginia state line, near the village of Reynolds Store.

McBee reappeared in West Virginia on Thursday, allegedly breaking into a home about 11 a.m. on Route 522, a half-mile south of Cacapon State Park. He held a 20-year-old woman hostage for about four hours, raping her and forcing her to feed him, according to authorities. He left after four hours, taking the woman's 1982 Oldsmobile and several weapons, authorities said.

During the manhunt, heavily armed police set up roadblocks to check cars for McBee and searched empty buildings and mountain cabins as possible hide-outs.

Authorities reported that area residents were arming themselves. Police were advising people to stay indoors and to keep their homes locked.

"People were tense with this individual running around," said Sergeant Bradley. "We were very concerned that with people arming themselves, an innocent victim might get hurt."

Miss Jones said she got several calls for dinner reservations from tourists staying at local bed-and-breakfast inns who asked if they should arm themselves before venturing out. The manhunt was all customers talked about at the cafe, she said.

Fear caused women in and around Berkeley Springs to leave work early and before dark, and to ask male co-workers to follow them home, Miss Jones said.

McBee's next victims, Sergeant Riffle said, were an elderly couple in Ridersville, a small town five miles from Berkeley Springs.

He allegedly broke into the couple's home about 7:30 Friday morning. He forced the couple to feed him and left around 10 p.m., after allegedly raping the 79-year old woman and stealing the couple's 1987 Buick. Police found the stolen Oldsmobile belonging to the first rape victim a few hundred yards from the Ridersville house.

McBee apparently spent the night traveling the back roads of Morgan County before ditching the stolen Buick in a remote area where police found the vehicle about 6 a.m. Saturday, Sergeant Riffle said.

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