NEW ORLEANS – The weeklong odyssey of a registered sex offender traveling with a missing teenage girl from Florida ended after a sighting by a Louisiana truck stop cashier triggered a lengthy police chase, authorities say.
Officers pursued a pickup truck driven by 41-year-old Steven Myers for miles, throwing down spike strips that blew out most of the pickup's tires, law enforcement agents said, adding Myers allegedly stabbed the 16-year-old girl and then himself before being subdued.
The 28-year-old cashier at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, said security footage later showed the two were in the store 75 seconds. But she said she recognized the two from video she had chanced upon while scrolling through Facebook before being called to work an unscheduled shift Wednesday night.
"My stomach dropped," said cashier Fawn Lasseigne Domingue.
The girl's family and neighbors had begun social media campaigns since the girl had gone missing June 11 in the Tampa, Florida, area -- about a 10-hour drive from Grosse Tete.
Wanting to be certain, Domingue went to the office and pulled up the video segment on her phone. When she returned, Myers and the girl were already outside the store. Manager Scott Holbrook said Domingue told him, "Call the police. It's a kidnapped girl," and followed them into the parking lot.
Domingue said Myers was about to pull out of the lot in a pickup truck when the first deputy arrived and she pointed out the truck, which authorities later said was stolen in the Florida Panhandle. Two more police cars showed up almost immediately, the cashier said.
Authorities said the chase lasted for miles through truck and car traffic.
Cpl. Paul Mouton of the Lafayette Police Department said the man got out of the truck with a knife at the end, and officers subdued him with a stun gun and a police dog. Officers then got the girl out of the truck. Myers allegedly stabbed the girl, then himself, and was bitten by the police dog that helped subdue him, authorities said.
The Plant City, Florida, man and the 16-year-old girl, from Valrico, Florida, were hospitalized Thursday in serious but stable condition with knife wounds, according to police.
Myers, who registered in Plant City as a sex offender, will face charges including attempted murder and unlawful sexual activity, officials in the two states said. He has served two Georgia prison sentences, the first for a 1999 conviction on child molestation charges and the second for a parole violation. He was released in February 2012.
"To hear that your daughter, your baby, has been stabbed ... I wouldn't wish that on anyone," the girl's father said Thursday at a news conference in Tampa. But he said, "I know my daughter's strong. I know she'll pull through this."
The Associated Press is not identifying the girl or her family because of allegations that she was sexually assaulted.
The teen, who had missing since June 11, is bipolar and had left her medications behind, officials said. The girl wasn't kidnapped, but Myers had manipulated her to go with him, Hillsborough sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski said in the Tampa area.
Lusczynski and Sheriff Brett Stassi of Iberville Parish both said Myers stabbed himself after getting out of the truck, and told police to shoot him. Mouton would not confirm or deny that scenario.
Myers fled, repeatedly swerving at cars and tractor-trailers he was passing in an effort to cause crashes that would stop or slow the police cars behind him, Stassi also said.
"He never stopped. The truck gave out on him," said Stassi, who said his deputies chased Myers from start to finish.
Mouton said spike strips thrown down by state police blew out five of the six tires on the truck, a work pickup with a welding rig on the back.
"He was running with no rubber at all," Stassi said.