An alleged sex offender from California faked his suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge was on the run for nearly three years before he was captured more than 3,000 miles away, living in a trailer in southern Florida, authorities said.
Michael Patrick Manning, 58, was arrested on May 3 on Stock Island, just outside of Key West.
Police said he had slipped away from Chico, California, police in October 2016 after skipping his sentencing hearing on charges of sexually soliciting a minor under 14, engaging in sex acts with a minor and possession of 600 images of child pornography.
According to California authorities, the Chico Police Department was contacted in September 2015 about Manning allegedly sexually assaulting a young girl in 2008 and 2009 when she was between 12 and 14 years old. Manning was arrested and booked into jail on the sex abuse charge, but later posted bail.
While investigating the sex abuse charge, police found Manning had hundreds of images of child pornography and arrested him again in September 2015, Chico police said in a release.
He was booked into jail and again posted bail. A sentencing date had been set for Sept. 6, 2015, after Manning pleaded no contest to the charges but he did not show up in court and an arrest warrant was issued.
A little over a year later, in October 2016, authorities in California found a rental car leased to Manning abandoned near the Golden Gate Bridge with a handwritten suicide note inside. A body was not found, and police believed that Manning had staged his own death and fled with the help of an associate.
“The search for Manning extended through Chico, Yuba City, Sacramento, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda,” Chico police said in the release. “Residences, storage facilities, and vehicles tied to Manning’s associate were frequently found full of personal property, and hastily abandoned. Investigators believed that on multiple occasions they had narrowly missed apprehending Manning.”
Manning’s yearslong police evasion ended on May 3 when deputies with Florida’s Monroe County Sheriff’s Office found him inside an unlocked trailer as they investigated a burglary alarm at a nearby business. According to the department’s press release, Manning told deputies his name was “William Wallace Littlejohn.”
A search of the trailer turned up a military contractor ID, several checks and a passport all bearing the name “William Wallace Littlejohn.” Authorities believed the passport was fraudulent and contacted U.S. Border Patrol.
After running the passport information, Border Patrol agents learned that the passport number belonged to a man in Utah. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office told NBC News they are not sure how Manning was able to obtain the man’s passport number.
Manning, who was refusing to give police his real name, was booked into a Florida jail as “John Doe” as authorities worked to figure out who he really was. That discovery wasn’t made until he was fingerprinted and records showed that he was wanted in California.
A spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said they are not sure how long Manning has been living in Florida. He told detectives that he took odd jobs doing construction.
Manning was charged in Florida with giving law enforcement a false name and identification and is being held in a Florida jail under no bail pending extradition to California. The spokesman said it could take several weeks for Manning to be extradited.