BAKERSFIELD (AP) — Authorities were searching Wednesday for a paroled sex offender who led them on an hours-long chase through California in a motor home with his two young children inside.
The youngsters, a 3-year-old boy and an 11-month-old girl, were found safe after the RV stopped Tuesday night in an orchard north of Bakersfield after a 100-mile (161-kilometer) freeway drive. But the suspect was nowhere to be found.
The wanted man, identified as Stephen Houk, 46, was believed to be armed, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Houk is a registered sex offender who was on parole following a conviction in Oregon for felony sodomy, records indicated.
The crime involved sex with a child under 14 years old but the circumstances were “too egregious to discuss,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Darren Harris told KNBC-TV.
Houk had a fight with his wife Tuesday morning and apparently took the children, authorities said.
That afternoon, detectives from the Major Crimes Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles tried to detain the parolee, who was wanted for evading authorities, child abduction, child endangerment and weapons violations, according to a department statement.
That prompted a chase that moved from nearby Hollywood north.
The motor home, a Dolphin 2740 more than 25 feet (7.6 meters) long with a bicycle strapped to the back, cruised along several freeways at highway speeds.
As many as 15 California Highway Patrol cars followed but didn’t close in following reports that Houk might have a gun and two children were in the vehicle.
During the chase, television reports showed the driver on the phone, with a dog in the seat next to him.
The hours-long pursuit moved onto freeways, including Interstate 5 through the Grapevine and into Bakersfield, some 100 miles (161 kilometers) away in Kern County, where the RV changed directions several times on State Route 99. The motor home finally stopped on a road in an orchard north of town where authorities surrounded it.
The children were found safe at around 7:30 p.m. but Houk was not in the motor home, authorities said.