Published January 13, 2015
A massive manhunt for the suspect in the deaths of a southeast Kansas woman and her three children ended when the man was arrested while walking and talking on his cellphone to a friend who had alerted authorities, police said Wednesday.
The 22-year-old man, who has not been formally charged yet, was arrested while shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday in Independence — ending the search that began Monday when 29-year-old Cami Umbarger of Parsons was first reported missing, Independence Police Chief Harry Smith said.
The bodies of Umbarger and her three children, ages 9, 6, and 4, were found late Monday night in Parsons, about 35 miles from Independence. Details about how the victims were killed or their relationship to the suspect have not been released by authorities.
More than 100 law enforcement officers, canine search teams and an aircraft from numerous agencies were involved in the search, which quickly focused on Independence where the suspect works at a roofing firm, Smith said.
Officers spotted the man walking along the street about a block from the local hospital and arrested him at gunpoint. He made no statements during the arrest, Smith said.
His clothes were soaking wet and frozen when he was found in the frigid evening temperatures that dipped to a low of 18 degrees.
"We were very miserable and we were dressed a whole lot better than he was," Smith said.
The Kansas attorney general's office has said it would prosecute any ensuing case.
Umbarger's sister, Beth Umbarger of Wichita, told The Wichita Eagle on Tuesday that she had heard Cami Umbarger "went out a few times" with the suspect. But she said the single mother broke up with him after he "started acting pretty scary."
"She'd been trying to stay away from him and he just kept coming back and going back," Beth Umbarger said. "She was just hoping that he would leave her alone ... and she would be able to move past it."
Police learned Cami Umbarger was missing after co-workers called police Monday when she didn't show up for work, facility administrator Joanna Wilson said. Umbarger was a licensed practical nurse who worked at the Good Samaritan Society, a nursing home in Parsons, a town of about 10,500 residents southeast of Wichita.
Parsons schools called in extra counselors to talk to students and staff about the deaths of the children, identified as 9-year-old Hollie Betts, 6-year-old Jaxon Betts and 4-year-old Averie Betts.
"Obviously everyone is deeply saddened and shocked by the news of the death of our students and their mother. In a town the size of Parsons, this affects everyone," district superintendent Shelly Martin said.
A candlelight vigil is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Parsons.
Funeral services are scheduled for Monday in Thayer for Umbarger and her children.