Pittsburgh, PA – A nationwide manhunt for the man who raped and killed a 13-month-old baby girl in Ohio ended with his arrest overnight in Franklin Park, PA.
Fugitive Joshua Gurto was captured by a Franklin Park police officer at 1:30 am on Friday, October 27, near Pittsburgh, according to NBC4i.
His arrest ends an almost three-week long, nationwide manhunt involving multiple state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Gurto, age 37, was wanted for the aggravated rape and murder of 13-month old Sereniti Jazzlynn-Sky Blankenship-Sutley in Conneaut Ohio on October 7.
The little girl was the daughter of his girlfriend.
“We believe he’s been in the woods the entire time,” Peter Elliott, US Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a press conference Friday morning (video below).
“He had maps of Pennsylvania and New York. Again, we made his world – with you guys – very small. And that’s what made a difference. He really had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide,” Marshal Elliott told reporters.
In the wee hours of Friday morning, a Franklin Park police officer was patrolling when he observed a white male wearing camouflage, and carrying a backpack, matching the description of Gurto.
The police officer followed the man as he approached the Sheetz on Nicholson Road, near Wexford Bayne Road.
The officer got out of his vehicle, drew his firearm, and ordered the man to the ground, according to CBS Pittsburgh.
“I give credit to that young police officer in Pennsylvania who spotted him, and did the right thing,” Marshal Elliott said.
“The chief in Ohio Township told me today that one thing about the young officer, and it’s very tough to do, especially with a case like this. He treated Mr. Gurto with respect,” he said.
“Gurto admitted his name, and didn’t make any statements after that,” Marshal Elliott said.
Gurto was taken into custody, and transported to the Allegheny County jail. He will likely be returned to Ohio next week.
He was carrying a knife in his backpack at the time he was apprehended, according to TIME.
Marshal Elliott thanked the media, and stressed it was a coordinated effort by “everybody.”
“You guys did a phenomenal job of getting the word out there,” he said.
Gurto’s location after fleeing the state of Ohio was initially unknown. About a week after the murder, Gurto was spotted in Girand, PA.
Police do not yet know how Gurto got from Conneaut, OH, where he committed his crime, to the Girard, PA, Marshal Elliott said.
A man came forward and said he had given a hitchhiker he believed to be Gurto a ride from Girard to a spot 20 miles away, where his truck broke down.
The driver did not know who Gurto was when he gave him the ride.
Police in Allegheny County, PA, said he was spotted again Wednesday, at about 4:30 PM at a Sheetz on Mt. Nebo Road in Ohio Township.
He was last seen carrying a camouflage backpack, wearing a black baseball cap, a camouflage jacket, and black pants.
Gurto was reported to have left the Sheetz, and walked north on Red Mud Hollow Road, which runs parallel to I-79.
Police searched the woods in that area beside I-79 after witnesses reported that they had seen a man believed to be Gurto camping out, but did not find the suspect.
Conneaut Police Chief Michael Colby said his department was familiar with Gurto before they responded to a call on October 7 for an unresponsive child at an apartment in Conneaut, northeast of Cleveland.
“We’ve dealt with Mr. Gurto on several occasions. It’s a small town here… a few scrapes, but nothing really too serious,” Chief Colby said.