By Phillip Williams
Capital murder suspect Alvin Charles McKnight Jr. was captured by police in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday night, 11 days after the double homicide that led to him being charged, Upshur County Sheriff Larry Webb announced at a Thursday morning press conference in Gilmer.
McKnight, 41, is charged with the Nov. 4 apparent shooting deaths of sisters Pamela Ray, 35, and Dermetrica Dashaunda Waters, 37, both of Gilmer, Webb’s office has said. They were slain at Ray’s home on U.S. 271 south of Gilmer in what sheriff’s Chief Deputy David Hazel has said is considered an act of domestic violence.
Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd said at Thursday’s press conference that extradition proceedings to bring McKnight to Upshur County “will take several weeks,” but vowed that “justice will be served.”
McKnight, whose truck was found by Gladewater police on Tenery Street shortly after the nighttime homicides, is being held in the San Bernardino County Jail without bond.
He was arrested by a “takedown team” without resistance at a bus station when he exited a bus about 11:30 p.m. Texas time, which was about 9:30 p.m. California time, Webb said.
Authorities had received information Tuesday that McKnight was “possibly getting on a bus” and heading west, the sheriff said. Authorities pinpointed that the vehicle was going from Abilene, Texas, to San Bernardino, he added.
“Last night, we were able to track him” and, for the passengers’ safety, the bus was allowed to go all the way to San Bernardino before he was arrested, Webb added. Upshur authorities had passed information on to city police there, the sheriff noted.
He also said authorities had found a new phone number allowing McKnight to be tracked, but that he couldn’t discuss why the suspect headed to California, nor where he had been while a fugitive.
Byrd alluded to the Saturday arrest of McKnight’s sister, Laquesha Monique McKnight, on a charge of hindering apprehension or prosecution of her brother, and said authorities believe others helped him avoid arrest. “I will prosecute each and every one of these people,” he pledged.
Asked if he would consider seeking the death penalty for McKnight, Byrd said he had decided that, but “ethically” needed to wait until the suspect is returned to Gilmer before announcing his decision. In Texas, capital murder is punishable only by lethal injection or life imprisonment without parole.
Byrd also said McKnight won’t be getting out of jail. The suspect was arrested in a southern California city of reportedly more than 220,000 population.
Webb had announced at a Tuesday press conference that McKnight had been placed on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s 10 most wanted fugitives list, and that rewards of up to $17,500 were being offered for information leading to his arrest.
After Thursday’s press conference, he said he couldn’t comment on whether anyone had received any of the reward money.
Webb stressed the work that not only his own office, but other law enforcement agencies did in seeking to capture McKnight. The sheriff said “Upshur County has really been turned upside down” with concern for citizens’ safety during the time the suspect was on the run.
He also said the slain sisters’ relatives were “excited” and “relieved” at McKnight’s arrest, and he asked citizens to pray for the families.
In previous announcements, Webb’s office said the suspect had lived with Waters until recently, and that he fathered a child by one of the women. Webb also said Tuesday there were witnesses to the slayings, but declined to elaborate.
With numerous officers present at the press conference (including Gladewater Police Chief Gordon Freeman), Webb cited the DPS, Texas Rangers, and U.S. marshal’s office, along with Longview, Gladewater, and San Bernardino police for their work on the case.
He noted that the Longview Police Department, where Webb worked before becoming sheriff, reached out to his office to offer help.
The sheriff additionally said his office’s Criminal Investigation Division had worked “tirelessly” and lauded his Communications Division for developing “some leads on their own.”
In addition, he commended citizens “who provided tips and information.”
Byrd said “it’s good to have relationships with law enforcement agencies outside of your county” and recognized Rob Bowen, lead investigator from Webb’s office on the case.
The 14-minute press conference was held at the Stanley Jenkins Training Center near Webb’s office.