BARSTOW – A wanted sex offender, who had not been in contact with his parole officers in two years was captured in the City of Barstow after a 2-day long manhunt authorities said.
On May 1, 2018, at around 8:00 a.m. suspect Stephen Houk, 46, was involved in a verbal dispute inside a motorhome with the mother of his two small children. The argument escalated and Houk allegedly pointed a handgun at the adult female victim and threatened to kill both her and their 3-year-old child. Houk then headbutted the woman and caused injury to her head.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that Houk then made the female adult get out of the motorhome, leaving her in the shopping center parking lot. He then fled with the two small children, ages three and 11-months-old. The Santa Clarita Police responded to the shopping center parking lot to find the female victim. McDonnell said that the woman reported being threatened and battered by Houk, but did not mention the threat to the children or that he had pointed a gun at her. Deputies located Houk and were made aware that the two small children were in the motorhome with him. They attempted to make a felony traffic stop but he continued, failing to yield. They pursued him for around two miles and backed away from the pursuit in the interest of public safety and the safety of the children.
At around 2:30 p.m. the Culver City Major Crime Bureau located the vehicle and again attempted to stop the vehicle. Houk fled again, getting on the northbound 405 freeway where the pursuit was turned over to the California Highway Patrol. He then got onto the northbound 5 freeway into Kern County and went north on the I-99 through Bakersfield authorities said. The motorhome stopped in the City of Shafter, just north of Bakersfield near an almond grove. He exited the vehicle into the almond grove, out of the view of authorities and fled on foot. The children were found safe inside of the motorhome and were reunited with their mother and transported back to Los Angeles County. Once they were returned to Los Angeles County, the children were placed in the care of Children and Family Services. The mother, according to McDonnell in a press conference was offered support and resources for victims of domestic violence.
Authorities searched the motorhome and found that a handgun and cell phone were missing. It was later learned that after leaving the almond grove, Houk ran for nearly 3 hours avoiding the highway. He went to the library to rest and at some point shaved his beard. He went to a homeless shelter to get food and received information from locals that the train left nightly from Bakersfield heading into Arizona, where Houk lived briefly.
On Thursday, May 3, 2018, at around 4:30 p.m. Houk was located in a rail yard in the City of Barstow in the 200 block of N. Avenue H in the City of Barstow where the train had a stop. He was found in a compartment of an empty rail car and was taken into custody without incident. He was booked into jail and is facing 14 felony counts including kidnapping with the use of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, criminal threats, child endangerment, and felony evading. He has a history of domestic violence and was on parole. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. The investigation is ongoing, no weapons were located but according to authorities, Houk did admit to discarding it.
Prior to the incident, it was learned that during the 2-year run when Houk did not report to his parole officer he worked odd jobs in order to support himself, the female victim, and the children. As they traveled through California, the female victim panhandled in order to feed and otherwise pay for the needs of the family.
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