An open phone line captured a confrontation between a California woman and her boyfriend, a fire official, which may have been the woman's last moments before she was killed, the Sacramento Bee reported on Friday.
Police have been searching for 55-year-old firefighter Orville "Moe" Fleming since May 1 when his live-in girlfriend, 26-year-old Sarah Douglas, was found stabbed to death at the home they shared in Sacramento.
Authorities have said they believe Fleming, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who was fired after the incident, could be evading capture in the state's massive mountain ranges.
Court documents cited by the Sacramento Bee show Douglas had been on the phone with her sister just after midnight on the day she died, and was complaining that Fleming had left the gas on at their house.
She said she suspected Fleming was trying to kill her pet birds, the paper reported. The sister, Stephanie Douglas, then heard her sister exclaim, "Whoa, you scared me," and Stephanie heard the voice of a man she later identified as Fleming, according to the paper.
After that, Stephanie Douglas heard arguing and a scream from Sarah, then the phone went dead, the paper reported.
As a former firefighter, Fleming has deep knowledge of the Sierra and Santa Cruz mountains and the picturesque Yosemite Valley, police said. He also has fire department keys giving him access to gated trails and roads.
The hunt for Fleming, who is believed to be armed, comes just over a year after former Los Angeles policeman Christopher Dorner fled into Southern California mountains after a murderous rampage targeting police officers and their families. Dorner died in a fiery standoff with police.
The Fleming case has not yet sparked the same kind of intense manhunt undertaken for Dorner, in which hundreds of officers joined after law enforcement officials and their families had been targeted for attacks.
Investigators on Friday had not yet been able to narrow down Fleming's location, said Sacramento County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Lisa Bowman. Authorities hope public attention could bring reports of sightings to help mount a targeted search.
After Douglas' killing, the fire department car Fleming used was found abandoned in a Sacramento suburb, police said.
Bowman said investigators are looking into the possibility someone Fleming knew picked him up and drove him away.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles,; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Gregorio)