BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A fugitive being sought on charges out of Louisiana isn’t believed to be in the area at this time.
Fort Madison Police have been dealing with a transient who is similar in description to a Preston Higgs, who is being sought by U.S. Marshals on a murder charge out of Louisiana.
According to FMPD Detective David Doyle, a transient has been reported multiple times in and around Fort Madison in the last few days trying to find shelter in the evenings. But the man is not the fugitive that authorities are on the lookout for.
Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department, which is working with the U.S. Marshals office, put out a notice on social media Sunday that confirmed Higgs was in the area early last week as property of his was recovered, but the same post said that Higgs isn’t believed to be in southeast Iowa any longer.
Doyle said Fort Madison police have received numerous reports in the last three days with people on high alert for Higgs.
“There is a transient from California who is similar in nature and build to the suspect they’ve been looking for,” Doyle said. “People are being overly vigilant with this and we’ve had several calls.”
Doyle said the first came in on March 12th and was actually from the transient looking for a place to stay. Then another call came in from the public on the 13th, but police didn’t find anyone after a search of the area. Doyle said he believes from the information it was the same man.
On Sunday night another call came in from the area of 18th Street to Hwy. 103 just outside Fort Madison city limits from someone who claimed to have spotted someone fitting the description of Higgs.
“Our units and county (deputies) went through this area and thoroughly searched the wooded area and could not come up with anybody. We believe this to be the same person we’ve been dealing with.”
Doyle said then on Monday morning, one of the car dealerships on the west side of town called in with someone who had gotten in the back of a box van to sleep.
“They startled him when they found him and he took off running and he was found about an hour later. We made the connection that he was the transient and they gave him a ride to Burlington because that’s where he wanted to go,” Doyle said.
“He just has no place to go.”
Doyle said he thinks that will be the end of the reports on the transient and said the timing has just been poor.
“This is happening at the same time as the search for the individual from New Orleans. By all counts on our end and from Van Buren County, we don’t believe the (fugitive) is still in the area,” Doyle said. “This other guy has never been a threat, just a transient.”
Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber said his department has been kept abreast of the situation as well and doesn’t believe Higgs to be in the area.
Lee County deputies and West Point/Donnellson police chased a man similar in description on Friday afternoon, thinking they may have been on Higgs trail. The suspect ended up being a local man and he was apprehended at a home in Donnellson.
“I’d just remind everyone were on the lookout as well and as we have current information we’ll get it to them as fast as we can,” Weber said.
“If or when we have to, we’ll deal with him as anyone else wanted for a heinous crime. We want to be upfront with the public and we’d rather have them be on the lookout, than not know what’s going on.”