MANHUNT

July 19, 2001 11:00 pm
Michael Braae ().
Michael Braae ().

PAYETTE, Idaho (AP) Cowboy Mike, a suspect in the disappearance of four women and the shooting of another, was captured Friday morning after a chase that ended with an attempted swim to freedom in the Snake River, state police said.

Michael John Braae, 41, a transient who favors cowboy hats and boots, was arrested by Payette County sheriffs deputies about 8:45 a.m. (MDT), an Idaho State Police dispatcher said. No additional details were immediately available.

Braae was spotted earlier Friday by authorities at the Black Canyon Truck Stop on Interstate 84 about 13 miles east of the Idaho line, a police dispatcher said.

Idaho State Police troopers gave chase and pursued Braae at high speeds on the interstate, onto some side roads in the Emmett area and back onto the freeway. The dispatcher said spike strips were placed on the westbound lanes and they succeeded in blowing out at least one of Braaes front tires.

The suspect stopped his vehicle on the bridge over the Snake River, which is on the Idaho-Oregon line, and jumped off the north side of the bridge into the river. Braae eluded officers for almost an hour, at least once going to shore and trying to hide in some bushes before getting back into the water.

Officers from the Idaho State Police and Oregon State Police assisted the Payette County deputies at the scene.

In Washington, Yakima County Sheriffs Lt. Dan Garcia said sheriffs detectives did the paperwork on Thursday for an arrest warrant for Braae, probably for attempted murder, in the shooting of Marchelle Morgan, 50, of Yelm, near Olympia.

Morgan was found shot in the head in the bushes by the side of a rural road Sunday. She remained in critical condition Thursday in Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.

Hes known as a womanizer, known to pick up women in taverns, Garcia said. Hes not

from anywhere, hes from here and there.

Across the Cascades in the southern Puget Sound city of Lacey, also near Olympia, Braae is a person of interest in the homicide of Lori Jones, 44, who was killed July 7 and found dead under her bed at her apartment, said Lt. Tom Nelson.

They were seen together at an Olympia bar that night, he said.

Braae is the last known person to have seen her alive, Nelson said. We dont think she had a relationship with him. It was the first night they met.

Police arent releasing details on how Jones was killed.

Braae has not been charged with a crime in the Jones case or in three others where police say he was the last person seen talking to women who have either turned up missing or been found dead.

Susan Ault, 39, a waitress from Cathlamet, vanished last month from Wahkiakum County in southwestern Washington. She was last seen arguing with Braae on June 24, Nelson said.

Velina Larson, 37, of Gladstone, Ore., a Portland suburb, was reported missing in September 1997. Her remains were found in a nearby vacant lot in January 1998, said Angela Blanchard, a Clackamas County, Ore., sheriffs deputy.

Also missing is Deb VanLuven, 45, of the Lacey area, who disappeared in north-central Washingtons Douglas County in 1997. She was last seen with Braae that March, Nelson said.

Braae is charged in arrest warrants with parole violation in Thurston County and with failing to make child support payments in California, Garcia said.

Detectives in Lewis and Yakima counties on opposite sides of White Pass along U.S. 12 searched for Braae Wednesday after receiving several tips.

A man arrested on a misdemeanor warrant directed authorities to a home in Randle, south of Mount Rainier, but investigators found no sign of Braae and the man admitted he made up the story in hopes of gaining leniency, Lewis County sheriffs Deputy Joe Doench said.

The man was jailed for investigation of providing false information and driving on a suspended license in addition to the previous misdemeanor case.

POLICE GET REPORTS OF SUSPECT IN LA GRANDE

Was Cowboy Mike in La Grande Thursday?

Maybe.

Five people called the La Grande Police Department Thursday to report they thought they had seen Michael John Braae, 41, a transient identified as a person of interest in the July 7 murder of a Lacey, Wash., woman and the man also seen with at least three other missing or killed women in Washington and Oregon.

The hunt for Braae, who likes to wear cowboy hats and boots, has been featured on television news this week.

That exposure may have led to the local calls, said La Grande Police Lt. Derek Reddington.

Reddington said this morning that one person who thought theyd seen Braae in La Grande called police Thursday morning. And, after six last night. we got four calls, he said.

The callers told police they believed they had seen Braae in several area businesses, including a local restaurant.

Police were unable to confirm any of the sightings, but Reddington noted that timing-wise, it sure adds up.