Aram Barak Catron of Colcord has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Malinda Jane Phillips. Phillips was killed January 26 when Catron crashed into her vehicle while trying to elude arrest.
Catron was also injured in the crash. He checked himself out of the hospital before the investigation was complete and is now a fugitive from justice, authorities said.
"Aram Catron is currently a fugitive from justice,” said Cherokee County District Attorney Jack Thorp. “If you see him, please call police. His past actions indicate could be dangerous."
Catron was a shoplifting suspect who was spotted by the Cherokee Marshal after a call went over police radio.
"He was reserved until it appeared to him that Catron was a danger to the community,” said Thorpe. “That's when he activated his lights and sirens, and that is when it became a felony eluding case.”
Less than a minute later, prosecutors say Catron's vehicle slammed into Malinda Phillips's car.
Catron crashed into Phillips' vehicle with such force that the engine was knocked into a nearby yard.
"A mom is gone. A wife and sister and friend is gone without any reason behind it,” said Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King.
The DA says he believes this case qualifies for the felony first-degree murder charge instead of a more traditional charge of manslaughter.
"After receiving it all on paper and looking at this exhibit, I felt comfortable in this specific case that the felony murder law would be best applied here,” said Thorp.
As for why they didn't charge him at the time of the wreck, the DA and police chief say they felt it was important to take time and build the strongest case possible against Catron rather than rushing with a lesser charge.
Anyone who witnessed the crash or was on the road when Catron sped away from police is asked to call Tahlequah Police at 918-456-8801 or the U.S. Marshal's Office in Muskogee at 918-687-2523.
Catron is known to frequent Delaware County in eastern Oklahoma, Siloam Springs and West Siloam Springs in Arkansas, Chief King said.
If you know where he is, you're asked to contact law enforcement.