May 16, 2014 / 6:45 PM / in 4 years

Ex-California fire chief arrested in girlfriend's murder

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - A former California state fire chief suspected of murdering his live-in girlfriend and then evading capture for two weeks was arrested on Friday, Sacramento County authorities said.

Investigators had been searching for Orville “Moe” Fleming, 55, since May 1, when his 26-year-old girlfriend, Sarah Douglas, was found stabbed to death at the home they shared in Sacramento.

Sacramento County sheriff’s detectives took custody of the suspect at about 12:30 Pacific Time, spokeswoman Sgt. Lisa Bowman said, even as investigators were planning to expand the hunt for information on his whereabouts to Mexico and Canada.

Fleming, who was fired last week as a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for failing to show up since the day before the murder, was being questioned Friday afternoon by homicide detectives, Bowman said.

The incident came just over a year after former Los Angeles policeman Christopher Dorner fled into the Southern California mountains after a murderous rampage targeting other officers and their families. That case ended with Dorner being killed in a fiery standoff.

Investigators last week thought the former battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) might be hiding in California’s massive mountain ranges or the picturesque Yosemite Valley.

Meanwhile, investigators had spoken with several people who worked as escorts in the Sacramento area and were believed to have known Fleming, Bowman said.

The former battalion chief was “very active” on the escort website “My Redbook,” and detectives were trying to piece together information on his life style and history, she said.

Someone from the escort service may have helped Fleming evade capture, the department said last week.

After Douglas’ death, the fire department vehicle used by Fleming was found abandoned in a Sacramento suburb, the department said.

Bowman said she did not immediately know where Fleming had been hiding, or how he was arrested.

Investigators had feared the former fire chief’s familiarity with the California back country would have allowed him to hide in the mountains and wilderness areas, Bowman said. The suspect also had the means to access fire roads.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Gunna Dickson

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