After a dramatic motor home pursuit on streets and freeways in Southern California and a tense two-day manhunt, the arrest of a paroled sex offender seemed almost anti-climactic.
Stephen Houk, 46, "just gave himself up" when law enforcement officers found him hiding in a rail yard in Barstow, more than 100 miles from Hollywood, where police followed the motor home on tight city streets. Houk was arrested Thursday afternoon in an empty rail car at a rail yard and was taken into custody peacefully by detectives from the Los Angeles County sheriff's Fugitive Task Force, according to a department statement.
Houk was taken to the Lancaster sheriff's station and booked on suspicion of kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, making criminal threats, domestic violence and other crimes, the statement said. Houk, who was on parole for felony sodomy in Oregon, led police on a chase in a motor home Tuesday afternoon after Los Angeles sheriff's deputies tried to talk to him about a report that he had threatened his wife.
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Police followed him from narrow surface streets in Hollywood more than 100 miles north to the agricultural heartland of California.
In Bakersfield, Houk repeatedly exited and re-entered the freeway, drove through the city and a busy Walmart parking lot, all with his 3-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter in the vehicle, authorities said. He eventually turned into an almond orchard and disappeared into a cloud of dust kicked up by his vehicle.
The officers -- unaware he gave them the slip -- pulled back and surrounded the motor home with armored vehicles, waiting for Houk to emerge. His son walked out of the vehicle about 45 minutes later and police later found his daughter inside. Neither was injured.
It's estimated Houk traveled about 15 miles on foot after ditching the motor home. He ate and rested at a homeless shelter before boarding a freight train that took him east, investigators said.
Police had warned the public that Houk should be considered "armed and dangerous."
The pursuit started when sheriff's deputies tried to question Houk after a customer at a Starbucks in Santa Clarita reported that a woman outside said she'd been threatened by her husband, that he had a gun, and she needed help, sheriff's Capt. Darren Harris said. Houk's wife later told deputies that he had assaulted her earlier that morning and pointed a loaded gun at her.
Detectives said they did not find a gun when they arrested Houk but the investigation continued.