Fugitive wanted in Jefferson County captured

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A manhunt for the man who escaped police custody during extradition from Florida to West Virginia ended peacefully Friday morning.

Eric Johnston, 44 of Jefferson County, was arrested in Pinellas County, Florida after failing to register as a sex offender. Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty told MetroNews affiliate WEPM that Johnston has an extensive criminal history that includes charges of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Johnston escaped police custody at around 1:30 Thursday morning at a gas station along Berryville Pike east of Winchester, Virginia. A manhunt ensued for roughly 26 hours until Johnston was apprehended by West Virginia State Police at a residence in the Arden area of Berkeley County Friday morning at around 4.

Frederick County Sheriff's Office
Eric Johnston

“He quite frankly, as best as we can determine, tried to stay pretty low and pretty off the radar,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty. “He hid out for most of the time in places where he was seemingly not able to be seen and located.”

Dougherty said having multiple agencies working cohesively coupled with tips from the public helped bring the manhunt to a peaceful ending.

“Our job is to take people like that into custody and to keep them away. The good news of this is event is that we have no reports of any serious violations, other than his own attempts to flee, being recaptured. So there were no other crimes that we understand reported against people or property as a result of him being on the loose.”

Darren Riggs and Mandy Malatt were present at the Trinity Church Road residence in Arden when Johnston was apprehended. They each face a charge of accessory and providing false information. Riggs is being held at the Eastern Regional Jail while Malatt is on $50,000.

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