How Arkansas Stopped a Fugitive

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The suspect was finally found in Arkansas, 1,204 miles away from the scene of the crime—and the story's end proved deadlier than its beginning. Jacob D. Robida, 18, had become a fugitive just 40 hours earlier in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he had entered the Puzzles Lounge and, after confirming that it was a gay bar, shot two men with a handgun and wounded a third with a hatchet. Authorities searched Robida's home and found neo-Nazi pamphlets and other hate literature aimed at racial and ethnic minorities. But the teenager was already speeding away in a green Pontiac, heading south and then west.

He apparently drove to Charleston, West Virginia, where he picked up Jennifer Rena Bailey, 33, whom police now simply describe as someone with whom Robida had a "prior relationship." And then they were off, unnoticed until they got to Gassville, Arkansas, on Saturday afternoon. The town policeman, James Sell, 63, spotted the car and pulled it over. But Sell never got a chance to question Robida. The policeman was shot and killed as he approached the car. Robida and Bailey then sped off.

Sixteen minutes later, they had reached the town of Norfork, Arkansas. State troopers, alerted to the situation, had set up "spike strips" across the roadway. "The strips took out two of his tires but he just kept going, or tried," says Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler. Robida's hobbled Pontiac finally stopped after smashing against parked cars in Norfork's small downtown area, and a gun battle with local and state police ensued. Robida was shot twice in the head and was helicoptered out to a hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Bailey was found dead in the car. An autopsy would be required to determine whether the bullets that killed her were fired by police or Robida, says Sadler. Robida himself would not be able to provide his reasons for the attack in New Bedford and his fugitive odyssey. Less than 24 hours after the Norfork gunbattle, he had died of his wounds in Springfield. One of his victims in Massachusetts remains in critical condition.