LOS ANGELES – The manhunt for a paroled sex offender who led authorities on a nearly four-hour pursuit in a motorhome from Los Angeles to Bakersfield, where he slipped away from police, ended Thursday with his arrest in a rail car in Barstow.
Stephen Merle Houk, a 46-year-old registered sex offender from Oregon, was wanted by sheriff’s deputies in Santa Clarita for allegedly threatening his wife with a gun and abducting his two young children.
Houk was located Thursday, May 3, in a rail yard at 200 North Avenue H, said Deputy Trina Schrader of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
“He was hiding inside a compartment of an empty rail car, where detectives from the Fugitive Task Force took him into custody without incident,” Schrader said.
Sheriff’s Lt. Eddie Hernandez said Houk had repeatedly threatened his wife and forced her to panhandle outside a Starbucks store at Bouquet Canyon and Newhall Ranch roads in the Santa Clarita area.
They were involved in a fight Tuesday in the motorhome, he said.
“That argument escalated to the point where he stops at the Best Buy, points a gun at her, tells her to get out of the motorhome and threatens to harm their 3-year-old,” Hernandez said.
Police spotted the motorhome in the Los Angeles area, prompting the chase.
“At that time we knew the suspect was armed,” Hernandez said. “We knew he had his 3-year-old in the vehicle, and his 11-month-old daughter.”
The chase ended about 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 1, in an orchard at Merced Avenue and Zerker Road in Bakersfield, where Houk managed to elude California Highway Patrol, Kern County Sheriff’s Department and Bakersfield Police Department personnel.
“The children kidnapped by suspect Stephen Houk were located unharmed inside the pursuit vehicle shortly after the pursuit came to an end,” according to the sheriff’s department. “Both children have since been reunited with their mother.”
Following his capture Thursday afternoon, Houk was transferred to the sheriff’s Lancaster Station for booking, according to Deputy Armando Viera of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.