Manhunt Continues for Killer in California Desert

"It's a large area to cover, there are a lot of places to hide," Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said.

The search for a man accused of kidnapping and killing a man and wounding two California sheriff's deputies, continued Wednesday in difficult high-desert terrain.

As many as 75 law enforcement personnel per shift are searching sparsely populated mining territory 30 miles east of Bakersfield for the man considered armed and dangerous and presumed traveling on foot. The Kern County area houses outbuildings, unoccupied homes, unoccupied mobile homes and trailers, Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said, which further complicates the manhunt.

The manhunt was approaching 96 hours since the last sighting of the man around 5:30 p.m.

"We believe that he's most likely holed up someplace,"  Pruitt said. "It's a large area to cover, there are a lot of places to hide."

Dozens of deputies and helicopters are contributing to the 24/7 search efforts, trying to locate the unidentified man in heat sometimes surpassing 100 degrees. Peaks in the area reach 7,000 feet, with the vast expanse of the Mojave Desert to the east and the San Joaquin Valley to the west.

"We're having to move very slowly and meticulously," Pruitt said. "This is a suspect we consider to be armed and very dangerous. He has shown he is not hesitant to engage law enforcement officers in a shootout."

The Goodman's live about 20 miles away from the search area, but are worried that a rock formation behind their house could be a potential hiding spot. "We're all living more concerned these days," Mark Goodman said.

The Native Springs Oasis, which boasts solar-powered teepees and a soothing pond, have sent their guests home until the manhunt is over. One staff member, David Nelson, has started carrying a shotgun when he walks around the property. 

"All we can do is be mindful and watchful," Nelson said.

The manhunt began on July 28 when three young men approached a squatter in a cabin who asked why they were on his property.

When one of the men said it was his cabin, the squatter pulled a shotgun and ordered them inside, holding the men for more than an hour and threatening to kill them.

The trio escaped and hiked several miles to a road. Meanwhile, the gunman left in their car, which was found abandoned two miles away from the cabin last Wednesday. Several firearms stolen from the men and the cabin were found, but the shotgun was left unaccounted for.

The next day, David Louis Markiewitz's worried family found the 64-year-old man shot to death in his Jawbone Canyon cabin. Pruitt didn't know what type of weapon was used to kill him.

Then, a man with a high-caliber handgun confronted SWAT team members Saturday as they entered a mobile home during their search, Pruitt said.

The deputies returned fire, and Deputy Michael Booker was shot twice -- once in each arm -- and taken by helicopter to a hospital with severe injuries. He remained hospitalized in stable condition.

Senior Deputy Jose Perez was treated for a minor wound to his right ear.

"We believe at this point that we're looking for one suspect," Pruitt said.

Authorities described the fugitive as a white man in his early 30s, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds, with long brown hair, blue eyes and wearing a brown corduroy hat and green bandanna.

Jessica Rice and Tami Abdollah contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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