- Associated Press - Thursday, October 28, 2010

FULTON, Mo. | A man already facing theft charges was captured Thursday as a suspect in a series of fatal central Missouri shootings that had prompted police to warn anyone associated with him to flee the area.

Joshua William Maylee, 23, was taken into custody about 1:30 p.m. without incident in Cooper County, several dozen miles west of where the shootings occurred, said Sgt. Robert Bruchsaler of the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad. He declined to release more details.

Authorities have not discussed possible motives for the shootings, but records obtained by the Associated Press indicate one of the victims had received a stolen lawn mower from Mr. Maylee.

Mr. Maylee, of Holts Summit, has not been charged in connection with the shootings that left three people dead and one wounded, but police have said they want to question him. Before Mr. Maylee was captured, Sgt. Bruchsaler encouraged people who had past encounters with him to contact law officers and move to a safe location.

“If they feel that their lives are in danger because of past dealings with Mr. Maylee, they need to find accommodations elsewhere,” Sgt. Bruchsaler said earlier Thursday. It was not clear how many people may have heeded the warning.

A gunman killed Eugene Pinet, 48, and his 57-year-old wife, Jackie, at their home in the Holts Summit area early Wednesday. Jeffrey Werdehausen, 46, also was killed and his wife, Gina, 41, was injured in a shooting at their home in the same area.

Police said the killings were not random but have declined to say why the victims may have been targeted.

Sgt. Bruchsaler has said the gunman used a high-powered rifle and a handgun, and that authorities thought he acted alone.

Mr. Maylee faces two felony theft charges, one of which was filed the day the shootings occurred. A police probable-cause statement in that case says Mr. Maylee stole a lawn mower, valued at around $10,000, from a home in Kingdom City on Oct. 15, 2009.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Clark says in the document that Mr. Maylee told police in a July 20 interview that he put the lawn mower in an enclosed trailer and took it to Eugene Pinet’s home. The lawn mower was recovered with a search warrant two days later, the document says.

It is not clear from court documents whether Mr. Pinet knew the mower was stolen.

Sgt. Clark declined to comment Thursday. So did Callaway County Prosecutor Robert Sterner, who filed the theft charge Wednesday. Sgt. Bruchsaler said he did not have firsthand knowledge about the theft investigation.

On Oct. 4, Mr. Maylee also had been charged with theft for allegedly stealing a tractor from Holts Summit resident William Essen on March 24, 2009. Sgt. Clark said in a probable cause statement that Mr. Maylee “confessed to stealing the tractor” and told police he kept it at his house for several weeks before taking it to Ashland, Mo., where it sold for $2,500. The document does not say who bought the tractor.

Mr. Essen told AP on Thursday that he does not know Mr. Maylee and was not aware anyone had been charged with stealing his tractor, for which he paid about $14,000 in 2004.

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