U.S. Marshals pursuing fugitive sex offender from Lake CountyPosted: Updated:
The U.S. Marshals led Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force is requesting the public's help to locate a convicted sex offender currently on the run.
Massillon, OH resident Willard Wigfield, 32, had previously pled guilty in the Lake County Common Pleas Court to a charge of rape of a child under the age of 15.
Wigfield was charged following an investigation conducted by the Mentor-on-the-Lake Police Department. Wigfield was on bond and scheduled to appear for his sentencing on Monday, July 8, 2013.
Wigfield failed to appear for his sentencing and a warrant was issued for his arrest. As part of his conditions of bond, Wigfield had been wearing an electronic monitoring device around is ankle.
When Wigfield did not show up for court, authorities checked the location of the ankle monitor. The device was sending signals from the Tuscarawas River near New Philadelphia, OH. An extensive search of the river by local authorities failed to locate Wigfield or the device.
The Marshals Service, along with the Lake County Sheriff's Office and Mentor-on-the-Lake Police, immediately launched an investigation and quickly developed evidence that Wigfield had cut off his bracelet and was on the run.
During the late night hours of July 9, investigators developed information that Wigfield had traveled to Orlando, FL and Osceola County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a hotel in an attempt to arrest him.
When deputies arrived Wigfield was no longer in the room, however they did locate 33-year-old Robert Mahaffey of New Philadelphia, OH. Florida authorities arrested Mahaffey for his involvement in Wigfield's flight from Ohio. Mahaffey, who had been identified as a close family friend of Wigfield, is being held in the Osceola County Jail on the first degree felony charge of accessory after the fact to the crime of rape.
Task force investigators then discovered that on Friday, July 5, Wigfield made known his plans to flee and enlisted the help of one of his sisters. The sister, identified as 28-year-old Stephanie Smith of Coshocton, OH rented a vehicle for her brother, and that vehicle was recovered by police at the Florida hotel. On Wednesday, July 10, members of the task force traveled to Coshocton, and with the help of the Coshocton County Sheriff and Prosecutor, obtained an arrest warrant charging Smith with obstructing justice, a third degree felony. Smith was arrested on the warrant is currently being held in the Coshocton County Jail.
Investigators have developed solid information that other subjects aided Wigfield and lied to cover his tracks when confronted by law enforcement. U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott stated, "Although the primary focus at this point is getting this dangerous sexual predator off the streets, investigators anticipate charging several other individuals for their roles in aiding his flight."
Wigfield is described as a white male, standing 5'07", weighing approximately 190 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair. Wigfield is known to spend almost all of his free times at locations frequented by juveniles such as skating rinks, playgrounds, and swimming pools. When Wigfield fled his residence he was with his dog, a brown and black Pomeranian-Poodle mix.
At this point, other than knowing Wigfield had been in the Orlando area on Tuesday, investigators are unsure as to his whereabouts at this time. Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Willard Wigfield is encouraged to contact the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force at 1-866-4WANTED or Text keyword WANTED and tip to TIP411 (847411) Tipsters can remain anonymous and reward money is available.
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