A suspect in a violent kidnapping on July 19 shot at Newton County deputies Tuesday morning as they were executing a search warrant on a property where a body also was discovered.
Freddie L. Tilton, 47, of Joplin, was taken into custody after a two-hour standoff with Newton County and Joplin special weapons and tactics teams at 3517 Cherry Road.
Sheriff Chris Jennings said deputies went to the address about 8:45 a.m. acting on a tip that there was a body in some woods there. Joplin police were assisting due to the size of the acreage involved.
Jennings said the initial search warrant was for the property but not the residence, and deputies knocked on the door to let the property owners know why they were there. They were on the porch when someone started shooting at them from inside the house, the sheriff said.
The deputies and police ducked for cover as numerous rounds were fired at them. They did not return fire, according to the sheriff.
"They had no target," Jennings said. "He was shooting through the windows out of the house. Without being able to see a target, we couldn't risk others' lives inside."
As it turned out, Tilton, who was charged in federal court on Tuesday with kidnapping a woman a week ago Sunday, was the only person inside the house, Jennings said. He also said deputies had some prior information that Tilton had been at the address on occasion and also knew he was wanted for the alleged kidnapping in Neosho. But they did not know he was at that location when they went there Tuesday morning.
A standoff ensued, with SWAT teams eventually firing tear gas into the residence to force Tilton to surrender. The sheriff said one of his lieutenants had been in communication with Tilton via cellphone and got him to come out with the help of the tear gas. Jennings said no one was injured in the course of the shooting and standoff.
Once he was taken into custody, deputies sought a search warrant for the residence as well as the property.
Jennings confirmed that a body was found in some woods at the address and that the victim appears to have been slain. Investigators were not releasing any information on the identity of the deceased.
"I do not have a cause of death as yet," Jennings said. "But it is definitely being investigated as a homicide."
Investigators are working to determine if Tilton is connected to the body.
Tilton was turned over to federal authorities after his arrest. The U.S. attorney's office in Springfield said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that Tilton and Alvin D. Boyer, 35, of Rogers, Arkansas, have been charged in federal court with kidnapping a woman identified in court documents only by the initials "S.T."
An employee of Boonslick Lodge in Neosho called police about 11:50 p.m. July 19 to report that a woman had been choked and dragged into a room. When a police officer knocked on the door, the woman fled the room in a bloody and injured state.
The U.S. attorney's office said Tilton is believed to have climbed out the back window of the room and escaped in the meantime.
The woman told investigators that she had gone to the hotel to meet Boyer, who had paid for the room. She instead found Tilton there, against whom she had previously obtained a protection order. She tried to turn around and leave, but he dragged her back into the room, she told investigators.
She had brought a 9 mm Walther handgun in her waistband for protection. Tilton is accused of taking the weapon from her and hitting her with it, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Tilton then allegedly took the gun with him when he climbed out the back window and tried to slide down a rain gutter. The guttering broke, and he fell to the ground in making his escape.
The woman was taken to a hospital for treatment of cuts to her face and a broken index finger. She received stitches above one eye as well as staples to other cuts on her face.
A search of the hotel room showed signs that a violent struggle had taken place. Investigators found a chair with rope and zip ties attached inside the room and blood on the floor and door. They also found additional nylon rope, zip ties, duct tape, a pair of pliers, a blowtorch, lighter fluid, drop cloths, a 9 mm handgun and a Kimber .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle.