A manhunt contines for a 44-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl he is believed to have abducted Tuesday in Clark County for the second time since September.
Sheriff Gene Kelly said the girl, Michaela Bruce, and the public could be at risk if the suspect, Mark Edwards, attempts to do something desperate to escape capture. He is possibly armed with guns and knives.
Tammy Bruce, the girl's mother, told News Center 7 that Edwards "knows he's going to be found... and it ain't going to be good."
She likened her daughter's relationship with Edwards to being in a "cult."
"It's like her little brain has been drilled over and over and over that he loves her. I trusted him. His daughter was my daughter's best friend. His wife was my friend," Tammy Bruce said.
Earlier Wednesday night, Fred Stegner, who operates the Springfield Soup Kitchen, 830 W. Main St., told News Center 7 Edwards and Bruce visited the facility sometime before 8 p.m. Tuesday. That would have been roughly an hour before the girl's mother reported her missing at 9:02 p.m. in German Twp., near Springfield.
Edwards eats at the facility regularly, Stegner said, but Tuesday night was the first time anyone there has seen him with the girl. There were 200 to 250 people there at the time. Springfield police and sheriff's deputies showed photos of the man and girl to volunteers Wednesday morning.
Edwards "came in with the blond lady," Stegner said. "I didn't know she was 14 until I came in today [Wednesday], but many volunteers told me they saw them."
Also Wednesday evening, sheriff's Sgt. Mike Young said deputies have continued to receive hundreds of tips, the most credible of which is that Edwards and Bruce may have been near State Route 235 and Interstate 270 late Wednesday morning. Deputies also searched several vacant houses in the area where Edwards and the girl abandoned a rental car he was driving.
Acting on one of the early tips, deputies responded to a Knight's Inn on West Main Street in Springfield at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday to look for Bruce and Edwards. Items believed to belong to Edwards and Bruce were located in a room. The state bureau of criminal investigation is analyzing items found in that room for DNA, Young said.
Deputies later spotted that rental car and pursued it but cut off that pursuit when the car ran a red light. Authorities found it abandoned at Rebert Pike and Cottage Drive in Springfield. A search of the area did not turn up Edwards or the girl. Officials said Edwards' wife rented the vehicle Tuesday.
Officials believe Edwards and Bruce are on foot unless someone has offered them help. Deputies have no reason to believe the two have left the area. They said if he's going to try to leave the county, he will need help or will have to commit a crime -- such as rob or steal -- to do so.
Edwards was arrested in September 2013 when he was found with Bruce after she went missing from her school bus stop. At that time, Edwards and the girl were found in a green Ford Expedition in the 3300 block of Ohio 41. She was hiding in the rear of the vehicle under blankets. Deputies found a Taser, knives, condoms, a spear and other items in the SUV. Officials have said Edwards is known to be a survivalist.
An Amber Alert was issued in the September incident, but one has not been issued in this latest episode. Deputies said they believe Bruce went willingly, so they can't issue an alert. Officials also said the victim does have a restraining order against Edwards, but it's believed the two were in contact for her to meet him at a prearranged time and place.
Edwards has a March 4 trial date on six counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and interference with custody involving Bruce and that September incident. He posted bond in December.
Bruce is white, 5-foot-2 and 110 pounds. She is blonde and has blue eyes. She was last seen walking in the area of The Hill Apartments in German Twp. Edwards is black, 5-foot-1 and 135 pounds. He has brown eyes and black hair.
The sheriff's office has issued a felony arrest warrant for Edwards.
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