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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2007
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Looking for man named Crook
Authorities missed 2 chances to catch suspect, landlord says

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com 340-2355

LACEY'S SPRING — The landlord of a man sought on an attempted murder charge said Wednesday that the fugitive has twice given authorities the slip.

Mike Seibert, a Huntsville attorney, said he and his wife, Lorri, rented the house at 17 Telephone Tower Road to Candy Michelle Flippo.

Investigators arrested Flippo, 29, when they found a meth lab in the residence during a raid last week. Deputies were searching for her boyfriend, Scott Crook, 27, who also lived at the residence.

WRSA

Crook and Tony Ray Flack Jr., 24, allegedly stole various parts from the nearby WRSA radio transmitter during a burglary Aug. 29, investigators said.

They fled in a green van, shot at a radio station engineer, rammed his car and then hurled pieces of metal at pursuing patrol cars, said Morgan County sheriff's Investigator Terry Kelly.

Kelly said extensive searches in eastern Morgan County throughout the day Aug. 29 failed to turn up either suspect.

Seibert said Crook returned to the residence after authorities left following the raid. Crook changed clothes and rode away on a motorcycle, Seibert said.

"That probably happened," Kelly said. "... The narcs went back up there (to the house) and found clothes that weren't there before. The motorcycle was gone."

Sheriff Greg Bartlett said a lack of manpower sometimes prevents his department from covering every base.

"We've only got so many officers and so many hours we can devote to every case," Bartlett said. "If we knew he was coming back, we might have been able to devote somebody to sit on the house."

Motorcycle chase

Seibert said he went to the house Saturday and saw the same motorcycle Crook had escaped on. This time, another man was riding it.

"He sees me and takes off. He's flying. I finally catch him in this real high-speed chase," Seibert said.

Seibert said the man pulled over at a gas station near the Whitesburg bridge.

Seibert said the man told him he could show deputies where Crook was hiding out in Huntsville.

"They (dispatchers) finally get me three deputies," Seibert said, "but they can't find an investigator."

Wasn't there

When deputies went to the house in Huntsville, Crook was not there.

"It was a very frustrating experience," he said. "We had him nailed down to an exact address (in Huntsville) for two hours and we couldn't get him because we couldn't get anybody to go over there to do it."

Bartlett said an investigator wasn't necessary to serve an arrest warrant.

"This did not require an investigator to come out on it," Bartlett said. "Patrol division could have and did handle the call."

Bartlett said his understanding was that the only reason an investigator was wanted was because the informant insisted he be followed to the residence only by an unmarked vehicle. The investigator who was on-call at the time drives a large, marked pickup.

"We don't have those kinds of vehicles at our disposal on a whim. It would have taken some time to get that put together," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said off-duty officers were called in to cover for the three patrol cars sent to Huntsville.

"Once they got coverage to cover the rest of the county, they went over there to answer the call as best they could," Bartlett said. "I would have been upset with them if they had left the county unattended to go on a possible warrant. It sounds like they handled it the way they should have, but it just didn't happen in the time frame Mr. Seibert wanted."

Bartlett acknowledged that both instances Seibert complained about might have been opportunities to catch Crook.

No way to know

Then again, he said, there was no way to know for certain that Crook was at the house or that he would still have been there had authorities arrived sooner.

Seibert said he had previously tried to get drug agents to raid the residence on Telephone Tower Road after he grew suspicious about activities there.

On Aug. 26, three days before the WRSA robbery, Seibert went to the rental house.

"The place was pretty junked up on the outside, and he (Crook) was acting funny. ... They had all these rolls of copper in the back, and the wire had been cut up, but the spools were there."

Seibert said he suspected someone had been burning the insulation off copper wiring — an act that is itself illegal and is often associated with illegal drug use.

"If I had known it was a meth lab, I would have stopped it right then," Seibert said.

"I called the Sheriff's Department and spoke with dispatchers. That was frustrating. I never got a call back. I called back a couple of times, and I could never get anybody to do anything over there. We never could get a response on anything. Then Wednesday, all this stuff happens, and I am livid," he said.

Bartlett said the Sheriff's Department did send a patrol car to the residence, but the officer encountered a locked gate across the driveway.

"(Seibert) may have been able to unlock the gate, but that doesn't give us probable cause to go on there," Bartlett said. "Him being an attorney, he would be the first one to ask why we didn't get a search warrant to go out there. Based on what I've heard, I don't think we had probable cause."

Seibert said he had filed a lawful detainer action when Flippo and Crook got behind on the rent.

When he went to the house the day following the robbery, he discovered "thousands and thousands in damage," he said.

"They had broken into all of our storage sheds," Seibert said. "It wasn't the police that did it. It was them, looking for stuff to steal."

"I have an interest in getting this guy put away," Seibert said. "He's dangerous. He's a threat to my wife's property and those neighbors out there."

At large

Crook remained at large Wednesday.

Flack, who had been arrested at his home in Joppa on Friday, was released from Morgan County Jail on $50,000 bond. Flippo remains in jail in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Kelly continued to ask that anyone with information about Crook's whereabouts contact him at 560-6196 or the sheriff's dispatch at 301-1174.

Crook is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 165 pounds.

He has hazel eyes and blond hair. He should be considered armed and dangerous, Kelly said.

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