By Bill Fuller and Janet Mcconnaughey Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — A truck stop cashier spotted a sex offender and a Florida teen who’d been missing for a week, setting off a 40-mile chase across Louisiana swampland that ended when the man’s truck burst into flames, officials said Thursday.
The Florida man — Steven Myers, 41, of Plant City — and the 16-year-old girl both had stab wounds and were in serious but stable condition, police said. Investigators believe but have not confirmed that Myers stabbed the girl and then himself, said Cpl. Paul Mouton, spokesman for the Lafayette City Police Department.
The teen, from Valrico in the Tampa Bay area, had been missing since June 11, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office statement. The girl is bipolar and didn’t take her medications with her when she last left home, officials said.
In the statement, released Friday, officials said they suspected the girl might be with Myers, who is registered in Florida for a 1999 sex offense of child molestation in Georgia.
About 10 p.m. Wednesday, a truck stop attendant in Grosse Tete — west of Baton Rouge, and about a 10-hour drive from the girl’s home in Valrico — recognized the two from a segment on cable TV’s “Nancy Grace” program and contacted authorities, Maj. James Cox of the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
The two were in a Chevrolet work truck with a welding rig on the back when a patrol car arrived, Cox said. Officers ordered the driver to stop, but he sped off, Cox said.
The chase moved west on the interstate until state troopers used a spike strip to stop the truck. Five of its six tires were flattened, and a tire caught fire after running on its rims, Mouton said.
Myers got out of the truck with a knife, and officers subdued him a stun gun and a police dog, Mouton said. They then got the girl out of the truck.
Both were hospitalized, and Myers also was being treated for dog bites, Mouton said.
Myers was found guilty of child molestation in March 1999, according to court records from Forsyth County, Georgia. He was sentenced to serve five years in prison and 10 years’ probation, which he twice violated, the court records show. He returned to prison in May 2010 and was released in February 2012.