Manhunt underway for suspect in Bixby woman's death

Thursday, December 30th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHOUTEAU, Okla. (AP) -- Authorities scoured southern Missouri today in search of a man wanted in the death of a Bixby woman and the carjacking of an elderly woman and a toddler in Springfield, Mo. Dozens of troopers and sheriff's deputies combed an area near Missouri 32 and Cedar County A Wednesday for Steven Ray Thacker, who was reportedly identified from video surveillance tapes at a Wal-Mart store in Pryor using the debit cards of Laci Dawn Hill,25.

Ms. Hill, who had been missing since Dec. 23, was found partially clad under debris inside an outbuilding where search dogs discovered her purse earlier in the day. In Springfield, police found Thacker's car abandoned at a pharmacy parking lot, where he took another vehicle by force, authorities said. The carjacking ordeal for 79-year-old Hazel Lynch and the 2-year-old daughter of Ms. Lynch's friend began at about 3 p.m. Wednesday when Ms. Lynch and the friend met Thacker at a Springfield drug store to show him a Grand Am for sale.

The young mother had advertised the car for sale and had a for-sale sign with her number on the car. After the four drove around the parking lot with Thacker in the passenger seat, Thacker allegedly went for a gun, said Springfield police spokesman Mike Green. The mother and Thacker struggled with the suspect grabbing her around the neck and punching her in the face several times. Green said Thacker pushed the mother out of the car and took off with the older woman and the toddler for around an hour before he released them west of Ash Grove, Mo.

The incident was similar to the one that apparently led to the disappearance of Ms. Hill with the Bixby woman staying home to show a potential buyer the family pool table that had been advertised for sale. Thacker is described by the FBI as a white male born on Nov. 21, 1970, 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighing 210 pounds with blue or hazel eyes and brown hair. The plumber's apprentice who was laid off a week before Christmas had served time in a Florida prison on convictions for bogus checks, records show.

Keith Roberson told the Tulsa World that because of the layoff, Thacker didn't have much money to spend on his family. But recently, Roberson said Thacker seemed to have a lot of money, which he said had been wired t him from his mother. "We just can't believe how he sat here at Christmas with us and carried on like nothing happened," Roberson said of his son-in-law. Roberson's daughter, Trena Thacker, could not be reached for comment. She was seen in the videotape with Thacker, but left before he paid for the merchandise.

Her father said Mrs. Thacker went to the police when she saw Thacker on the tapes on television and when she found out he had used Ms. Hill's debit cards. FBI spokesman Dan Vogel said a state medical examiner would have to determine Ms. Hill's cause of death. An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday for Thacker on complaints of unlawful possession and use of a stolen debit card.

Prosecutors said Wednesday that a first-degree murder charge would be filed by the Mayes County District Attorney. Dozens of Mrs. Hill's friends and relatives had put up posters of the missing woman and waited by the phone for some word about her welfare. A $20,000 reward was offered for her safe return. "I know she accepted the Lord as her savior," Michael Hill said. "I know she's with the Lord right now. You don't understand this. Why would somebody do this? You can't figure out the evil that goes in the world."