August 5, 2013 Wauchula Florida – The manhunt for Suarez began early Saturday morning along Hwy. 64 between Wauchula in Hardee County and Avon Park in Highlands County, where Suarez fled after crashing during a 3-county chase.
The search was called off Saturday, but was triggered again around 10 a.m. after Suarez was seen by multiple people in the area.
A Hardee County Sheriff’s official said a person thought to be Suarez went to a migrant worker area along the rural highway, asked for shoes and clothes, and was given them by workers who did not know that he was a wanted suspect.
An attendant at a nearby gas station, Susan Ornelas, said a man who lives along the highway was approached by Suarez, who asked him if he could use his phone.
The man let him and he made a call to an unknown person. HCSO officials confirmed Suarez had made a call, but would not say to whom.
The man became suspicious and called law enforcement after Suarez had left. He was later informed the man was Suarez.
“He knocked on his door, about 9 o’clock in the morning, wanting to use the telephone,” Ornelas said, “and I said, ‘Why didn’t you call the cops? Why didn’t you grab this guy?’ And he said he didn’t know. He let him use the phone and then he called the cops.”
The attendant said Suarez was also at her gas station at one point Sunday, hiding in bushes, when he came out, tapped on a vehicle’s window and asked for a ride. The driver declined.
Suarez fled from the gas station.
Multiple law enforcement units flooded the area, but Suarez had disappeared. The surrounding area is rural.
Dey said the agencies don’t know if Suarez has been able to break the perimeter that was setup Sunday, but Dey said they expect him to try to get back to Frostproof.
“I’m worried about my kids,” Wauchula resident Nikki Murphy said, “and I think that a lot of our friends are leaving the area to go stay in different places … it’s scary.”
Dey said HCSO deputies will be the patrolling the search area through the night and following up on any leads on Suarez that may come in.
“We are going to be searching for him until we find him,” Wood said.
Sheriff’s resources, including aerial and K-9 units, from Polk, Hardee and Highlands Counties were involved in the chase and have continued as part of the manhunt.
Dey said an estimate 60 units from those agencies, Wauchula Police and Lake Wales Police Dept., FWC and FHP have taken part in the manhunt in various ways over the past two days.
PCSO is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to Suarez’s arrest and prosecution.
Anyone with information about Suarez’s whereabouts is urged to contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200.