Stanko a Smart, Polished Ex-Con

By most accounts, Stephen Stanko (search) was a highly intelligent, polished ex-convict who didn't mind talking about his life in prison or the book he'd written about it.

And it was his love of books that brought him to the library where he met the two people he is suspected of killing — a 43-year-old librarian who would move in with him and a 74-year-old man who spent many days chatting with the couple, said John Gaumer, director of the Horry County Memorial Library.

A nationwide manhunt for Stanko was launched, and on Tuesday, the ex-con was captured near a shopping mall in Augusta, Ga., the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Stanko, 37, was released from prison nearly a year ago after serving 8 1/2 years of a 10-year sentence for kidnapping. While in prison, Stanko co-wrote a book titled "Living in Prison: A History of the Correctional System With an Insider's View" with the help of two criminology professors.

News that authorities were seeking him in connection with two killings and the rape of a teenage girl surprised those who knew him. "He seemed to feel comfortable letting people know that he was an ex-con," said Gaumer, who was in a library book group with Stanko. "It didn't seem to bother him."

A week ago, Stanko was fired after working for a month as a salesman for Stucco Supply in Myrtle Beach. Jeff Kendall, the company's general manager, described Stanko as a smooth talker who was upfront about his time in prison, but was unreliable and brought in few sales.

"He wanted to do everything," Kendall said. "I was the one that gave him a chance. I said, 'I'll give you a chance, but from there, it's up to you.'"

Investigators swarmed the Horry County Memorial Library on Monday, taking the branch's copy of Stanko's book and sealing the office one of the victims, librarian Laura Ling, worked in.

Ling was found strangled in the home she shared with Stanko on Friday after a teenage girl in the home called authorities and said she had been raped, police said. The other victim, Henry Lee Turner, was found shot to death in his home Saturday, police said.