PORTLAND, Oregon — A fugitive couple wanted in Oregon on numerous child rape charges who had been on the run for nearly 20 years were found in Mississippi after the man died and his common-law wife tried to arrange his funeral, officials said.
Authorities finally zeroed in on the couple after the woman gave an undertaker a known alias used by Leon Henry Shaw, and realized he was on the FBI’s most wanted list.
Federal agents then swooped in and arrested Victoria Michelle Cravitz, the Associated Press reported. She had been living under the name of Jennifer Larsen.
The arrest brings to an end a chilling tale that dates back to 1999 when people who said they had earlier been abused by Shaw and Cravitz as children, went to authorities and said they were worried that three other children still living with the couple would also be molested.
Investigators determined the abuse had gone on for at least a decade.
Shaw and Cravitz were charged with multiple counts of rape and sodomy for forcing two children under the age of 10 to have sex with each other, prosecutors said. One of the children was also raped by an adult, they said.
During the investigation, prosecutors say another woman came forward to say she had been kidnapped by the couple at a young age and had given birth to a child with Shaw. The young woman later escaped but her son remained in the house, prosecutors said.
The FBI had searched for years for the fugitives, but there were few leads and no breakthroughs, until now.
“They had been on the run for a long time. They always lived in rural areas,” Klamath County District Attorney Eve Costello said. “They didn’t have a lot of contact with people and they moved constantly.”
The couple apparently had been living south of Greenville, Mississippi, for about 15 years before Shaw, now 72, developed a serious infection and Cravitz took him to a Mississippi hospital, where he died of natural causes.
Cravitz used an alias while making his funeral arrangements, which triggered an FBI flag when the undertaker tried to prepare a death certificate.