Huffpost Crime

Hurricane Murders: John Egland, U.S. Soldier, Wanted In Multiple Homicides

Posted: Updated:

JAMISON, Pa. — An Army officer suspected of killing four people in Pennsylvania and Virginia was found dead in a wooded area Sunday after a manhunt during Tropical Storm Irene's winds and drenching rains paralyzed residents in this Philadelphia suburb.

Hours after he fired at several officers, wounding two of them, the body of Leonard John Egland, 37, of Fort Lee, Va., was found around 3:30 p.m. in this Bucks County community, said Warwick Township Police Chief Mark Goldberg.

The police chief said Egland had a gunshot wound but he would leave it to the coroner to determine whether it was self-inflicted.

Egland's body was found several hundred yards behind a Lukoil gas station where authorities say he had fired a semiautomatic rifle at SWAT team members who discovered his truck and found him before dawn in a trash bin. The officers chased him into the woods but lost him as the storm raked the area, Goldberg said.

"It was bad," he said. "Weather conditions were horrible and it was a very dangerous situation."

He said the SWAT teams had "performed courageously."

With Egland on the run, armed with two weapons, residents were warned to stay indoors and keep their doors locked, the police chief said.

The manhunt, Goldberg said, "tied up departments all over Bucks County ... It didn't prevent us from responding during the storm but it certainly taxed our resources."

Three Bucks County SWAT teams, state police and numerous police departments searched for Egland after his former mother-in-law was found shot to death in her home in Buckingham. Authorities in Virginia said Egland had earlier killed his former wife, her boyfriend and the boyfriend's young son before taking his own young daughter on a frantic drive through Irene's winds and rains into Pennsylvania.

The girl, believed by Goldberg to be about 6 years old, was abandoned Saturday night by Egland, unharmed, at St. Luke's Hospital in Quakertown, apparently after the child's grandmother was killed. A note was left with the child, authorities said; its contents were not released.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said a nurse or orderly confronted Egland but the Army officer flashed a pistol and got away. The hospital worker called police with a description of the suspect and his black pickup truck.

Just before midnight, the truck was stopped by state and local police in Doylestown Township. Officers said the suspect fired shots from a semiautomatic rifle, hitting an officer in the arm and shattering a windshield that sent glass into the face of a Dublin officer.

Goldberg said both officers had been released from a hospital.

The truck was spotted around 4 a.m. Sunday parked at a restaurant in a Warwick Township shopping center. Local officers found Egland's truck and spotted him in the same area about an hour later and reported being fired upon. The officers, members of the Central Bucks SWAT team, were not hit, Goldberg said.

The body, found in woods behind the gas station and a business under renovation, matched Egland's description, he said.

A rifle and pistol were found with the body, which was discovered more than 10 hours after Egland fired at police the second time, authorities said.

Goldberg said that because of the lockdown, numerous residents were prevented from checking for storm damage at their homes.

"I know just from the way the phones were ringing in the police station that it was causing a great deal of anxiety among our people, and for us as well," he said. "It's a tragic event, but at least our residents can rest easy."

Police in Chesterfield County, Va., said Pennsylvania police had asked officers at 1 a.m. Sunday to check on the welfare of people at a home, where officers found the bodies of Egland's ex-wife, her boyfriend and his child. Names of the victims were not being released pending notification of relatives. A spokesman said the suspect had no known criminal history in the area.

Egland's former mother-in-law, 66-year-old Barbara Reuhl of Buckingham, was believed to have been killed Saturday night, Heckler said.

Goldberg said other family members were under police protection during the search for Egland, including one person who was at the police department. The police chief said he believed Egland's daughter was being cared for Sunday afternoon by relatives.

Egland had recently returned from the latest of three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Heckler said.

___

Todt reported from Philadelphia.

Around the Web

Police still looking for shooting suspect in Warwick - phillyBurbs.com ...

Judge shoots intruder who broke in through window | The Augusta ...

BBC NEWS | UK | Crime 'hotspot' study angers city

philly.com: Philadelphia local news, sports, jobs, cars, homes

Irene: It could have been worse

Atlantic City's senior citizens gamble on Hurricane Irene -- and win

Obama stays on top of Tropical Storm Irene

Irene pounds Rhode Island; 155000 without power

Hurricane Irene Batters Weekend Box Office

Mid-Atlantic Struggles With Downed Trees, Flooding