LAS VEGAS – The fugitive accused of raping a little girl on videotape was portrayed Monday as a dangerous, knife-wielding survivalist who once vowed never to be taken alive and formerly worked as an animal trainer with Las Vegas illusionists Siegfried & Roy.
The FBI and Las Vegas police pressed a nationwide manhunt for Chester "Chet" Arthur Stiles, 37, who authorities say can be seen molesting a 3-year-old girl in a mysterious video that was recorded four years ago and surfaced last month.
"He's a survivalist type who isn't bothered by living without electricity or water, and always carries a fighting-type knife," said Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett.
Investigators were interviewing people who know Stiles and pursuing hundreds of "very fruitful" leads Monday from across the country, said police Capt. Vincent Cannito, head of the department's youth and family crimes unit.
"He does have a very violent past," Cannito said, "and he has a history of narcotics usage, so we do consider him to be a very dangerous individual."
Authorities were seeking Stiles on an unrelated warrant issued last year charging him with fleeing to avoid prosecution on allegations he groped a 6-year-old girl in 2003.
Las Vegas police say Stiles had a string of arrests dating to 1999 on several charges, including assault, battery, resisting a police officer, auto theft, leaving the scene of an accident and contempt of court.
He was convicted in 1999 in Las Vegas of carrying a concealed weapon, and in 2001 of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, according to court records. Stiles also pleaded no contest in Houston in 1993 to unlawful carrying of a weapon.
The district attorney said Stiles vowed in the past not to be taken alive by police.
Beckett said Stiles has claimed to be a former Navy SEAL and a black belt in karate, and claimed to own several guns, including a rifle, shotgun and pistol. But the district attorney said he could not confirm any of that.
Beckett said he got the information from a Las Vegas lawyer representing a person who knows and fears Stiles. Beckett would not reveal their names.
However, a spokesman for magicians Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn said Stiles worked as part of an animal training team for Siegfried & Roy for a few months in 2002 at the Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas.
"He helped taking care of the animals, and he was let go when he didn't show up to work one day," spokesman Dave Kirvin said, adding that Stiles left little impression on the dozens of other animal trainers.
As for whether he served in the Navy, records suggest he lived in 1989 at a Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fla. But the Navy and a clerk at a military locator office in St. Louis could not immediately confirm he was in the military.
Tina Allen, a former girlfriend, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that she initially trusted Stiles around children, including her own grandson. "I know him to be very violent, and he's not going down without a fight," Allen said.
Allen told CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday night that she worried Stiles might emerge from hiding to harm her and said she would seek the protection of Las Vegas police on Tuesday.
The video came to light last month after a man claimed to have found the tape in the desert. But authorities said the man, Darrin Tuck, 26, had it for as long as five months and showed it to others before turning it in. Beckett said Monday he planned to file pornography charges against Tuck.
Authorities last week took the unusual step of releasing images from the tape and identifying Stiles in an attempt to establish the identity of the victim. With help from the media and the public, sheriff's deputies found the girl, now 7, safe in Las Vegas, where they said the video was made.
The Associated Press is no longer identifying or releasing photos of the girl because she is a suspected victim of sexual abuse. It did so earlier in the interest of her safe recovery.