ELKHART, Ind. – A tip from a pizza man and a secret message in a phone call helped lead to the arrest of a man accused of abducting his ex-girlfriend and their four children after shooting a man.
The clues came during a three-day search for the family that ended with their dramatic but peaceful rescue at the motel where they were staying with the suspect, Jerry D. White.
Someone wired money to White after the abduction and authorities are trying to determine who that was, Detective Sgt. Bill Wargo said at a news conference Wednesday. Police would not say how much money was involved.
Although police had extended their search for the family to Chicago and said they had gotten tips from throughout the Midwest, they said Wednesday they had believed since the night of the abduction Saturday that the victims were still in the area. The motel was just 4 miles from the family's home.
White faces charges of attempted murder and several counts of confinement, and prosecutors will review whether further charges will be added, Wargo said.
Wargo said he knocked on the door of the motel room about 8 p.m. Tuesday and Kimberly Walker opened it.
"She was sobbing hysterically and physically shaking like I've never seen anybody shake," Wargo said. "I asked her if she was Kim. She very hesitantly shook her head yes."
Within minutes, police had rescued Walker and her children and captured White, her former boyfriend and the father of the children, as he tried to escape through a motel air duct, Wargo said.
Authorities said they didn't know how long Walker and her children, who range in age from 16 months to 9 years old, had been at the Sleepy Hollow motel with White, 30, of Chicago.
Police had begun watching the motel after a car White is believed to have used was found nearby.
Walker also made three calls to relatives from a nearby pay phone saying she was safe. However, her family had chosen a code word before the abduction that they used with Walker to make sure she was safe, and when she didn't respond properly, they knew she was still being held against her will. Police would not say Wednesday what that word was or how long it had been used.
Wargo said a pizza delivery driver helped pinpoint the family's location.
Police said White broke into Walker's house early Saturday and shot her sister's boyfriend, Lathie Turnage, in the face and chest. White then held everyone captive until leaving with Walker and the children nearly 10 hours later, police said.
Wargo said an Amber Alert and media coverage may have prevented White from leaving Elkhart, in northern Indiana, with the family.
Wargo said Turnage was still in critical condition Wednesday and was expected to be transferred to a Chicago hospital for surgery. "He's going to have a long recovery ahead of him. But he is expected to survive," the officer said.
After Wargo went to the motel and Walker identified herself, officers pulled her out of the room and rushed her behind a building, he said.
"She was yelling, 'My children! My children!"' Wargo said.
He said that as he yelled for the children, the oldest, 9-year-old Jaylan, poked his head out from the bathroom.
"I asked him to come out to me, and as he came running out they all came out in order like a row of ducks," Wargo said.
Officers caught White as he tried to escape through the air duct, Wargo said. White did not have a weapon on him, but police found a handgun in the motel room.
Walker's sister, Pamela Walker, said her sister's children didn't see the shooting, but her own 3- and 11-year-old children did.
"They're going to need a lot of counseling I'm sure," she said. "The 3-year-old was at my side when he did the shooting. He yelled 'You shot my Daddy! Why did you shoot my Daddy?"'