Escapee, girlfriend captured in Washington town

Manhunt ends for attempted murder suspect

September 16, 2010|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

A man who wriggled out of handcuffs and escaped from Baltimore police took a 2,780-mile trek across America in a silver Kia Spectra with a bent frame before being captured in a parking lot of a small prairie town in Washington state, authorities said Thursday.

Acting on a tip from Baltimore, members of the U.S. Marshals Service swooped in Wednesday evening on the banged-up car in Yelm, Wash., a town of about 5,400 west of Mount Rainier and first settled along a wagon road and Indian trail in 1883.

What brought Paul Bryan Palmer, 32, and his pregnant girlfriend, Gina Distefano, 29, to the West Coast remains a mystery. A Baltimore police spokesman, Kevin Brown, said they were not staying with relatives or friends.

The arrests end a five-day manhunt that began last Friday when police said Palmer, arrested on a warrant charging him with stabbing a man seven times during an argument over a woman, broke free of his plastic restraints in the lobby of a downtown police station.

Police said the victim had just gotten out of jail Aug. 31 and went to his girlfriend's house, where he discovered she was living with another man, Palmer. The two men argued and police came and defused the situation, authorities said.

But later that day, police said Palmer jumped the victim, punched him and stabbed him on Davis Street in East Baltimore. He was arrested and was being taken to Central Booking to be processed on charges that included attempted murder when he complained of a hand injury.

While being looked at in the Central District station on East Baltimore Street, police said, Palmer managed to break free of his cuffs and run away. Police said he met up with his girlfriend, Distefano, and they were last known to be traveling in the silver Kia. At the time, police said, it was fitted with a "doughnut" spare tire, but it was unclear whether the spare was used for the cross-country trip.

Police would not say what tip prompted Baltimore's Warrant Apprehension Task Force to lead them to Yelm. But after getting the information, Brown said, authorities in Baltimore contacted marshals in Washington, who found the couple in the car in the parking lot.

Extradition proceedings were under way Thursday.

The Internet site for Yelm describes the town as a prairie village that is at a crossroads for several Indian trails later used by fur traders, settlers and the Northern Pacific Railroad.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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