Timothy Tuttle captured
Daniels Parkway on Treeline Avenue
Country Oaks in San Carlos Park
LEE COUNTY — A citizen’s tip resulted in the arrest of a Cape Coral homicide suspect on Wednesday, hours after deputies ended a massive manhunt.
Timothy Wayne Tuttle, 22, eluded authorities in south Lee County for roughly 24 hours before his arrest in the brush along Interstate 75.
He was captured after an interstate driver spotted the shirtless, shoeless suspect standing in the parking lot of a Frito Lay distributor on Jetport Loop and called dispatchers, Lee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry King said.
As deputies and a Sheriff’s Office helicopter moved into the area, dispatchers fielded more calls from citizens who reported seeing Tuttle.
“One of the teams was able to track close to his location, coordinate with the aviation unit, and I think once they got in close proximity, he in essence surrendered,” King said.
Tuttle was nabbed roughly two hours after the Sheriff’s Office ended a manhunt involving scores of Southwest Florida officers, a helicopter and 30 police dogs. The Frito Lay parking lot was just north of the perimeter, and it wasn’t immediately clear how Tuttle moved through the area.
The manhunt combed a rural stretch of open fields, wood stands and stalled commercial developments in an area bound by Alico Road to the south, I-75 to the west and Treeline Avenue on the east.
Deputies parked along roadway medians, in the parking lots of nearby businesses and in utility cuts within the perimeter. A helicopter searched overhead, and police dogs probed the woods for Tuttle’s scent.
By the end of the effort, about 3:30 p.m., officers had found little beyond footprints in soft dirt. The hunt was made especially difficult by thick terrain and high temperatures. Search dogs were exhausted, and so was the manhunt, Lee County K-9 Unit supervisor Sgt. Fred Janke said.
“We’re pretty confident he’s not here anymore,” Janke told reporters.
Tuttle was wanted in the July 10 armed robbery and slaying of Eric Leigh Stuebinger of Cape Coral. Authorities say Tuttle and another man, Terry Frankie Ragland Jr., 26, demanded money and drugs, Tasered and then beat Stuebinger before shooting him in front of his girlfriend and her toddler son.
Ragland was arrested Saturday in North Naples.
Members of the Florida Regional Task Force — a squad of officers from local agencies and the U.S. Marshal’s Service — tracked Tuttle on Monday to Sheltering Pines, a trailer park in San Carlos Park, where they believed a couple was hiding the suspect.
Sarah Christine Lampila, 22, and Carl Robert Dugo, 24, told officers that Tuttle had spent the Sunday night at their trailer, was likely still in the area and might return to the home, according to a report.
Instead, on Tuesday night a detective tailed the couple as they drove from their home to a wooded area by the intersection of Country Oak Drive and Three Oaks Parkway. Tuttle stepped out of the vehicle and began walking away, the report states. Task force officers confronted him and gave chase.
Tuttle lost them in the woods.
Deputies later arrested Lampila and Dugo, charging them with accessory after the fact.
Over the next night and into the morning, witness accounts placed Tuttle along Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, which turns into Treeline Avenue north of Alico Road. One sighting, around 6:15 a.m., placed him at Jetport Loop. Another, at 7:25 a.m., put Tuttle near a canal just north of Alico Road, several miles south of the 6:15 sighting.
“We were fairly close at several points,” said Janke, the K-9 Unit supervisor.
Tuttle is a convicted felon with 12 prior arrests in Lee County. He served time in prison for a pair of fleeing charges and is currently on probation. He also has a pending battery case from a March arrest. Tuttle now faces a second degree murder charge, which carries a maximum life sentence in prison.
The charges against Lampila and Dugo carry a maximum 15 year sentence in prison.
Agencies assisting in Wednesday’s manhunt included Lee County Port Authority Police, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Myers Police and Cape Coral Police.