Increased deer scouting aids in fugitive’s capture

Editor's Note: Ohio's hunters should not be
forced to chose between the inalienable right of self-protection and following the wildlife regulations established by a state agency. It is
far past time for the Division of Wildlife to recognize that the background-checked CHL-holder is not likely a poacher or a threat to the Wildlfie Officers. Article republished with permission

January 3, 2007
Ohio Outdoor News

By Dave Golowenski

Chillicothe, Ohio — The world at large might never know whether Ronnie Copp got his deer, but there’s no doubt the Chillicothe hunter helped authorities get their man.

The man was fugitive John W. Parsons, a suspected cop killer who had escaped July 29 from the Ross County jail while awaiting trial and then eluded capture for 83 days.

Residents of Ross and surrounding counties had reason to be shaky until Copp, who was out scouting deer on Oct. 18 not far from downtown Chillicothe, spotted a shack that turned out to be Parsons’ hideout.

Copp told authorities he was drawn to the shack while following what he recognized as an unusually wide deer trail.

Click on 'Read More' for the entire story.

The would-be hunter notified authorities that a ramshackle dwelling covered in shingles and barbed wire apparently had been recently erected and was being occupied behind a lumberyard property. Police and sheriff’s officers located Parsons in the shack the next day.

“He was found about two miles in a straight line from the Ross County jail,” said Bob Nelson, the Ross County wildlife officer for the DNR Division of Wildlife and early on a member of the manhunt team.

“The only reason I got involved,” he said, “was that I offered my services to the (Ross County) sheriff’s department and was told they could use all the help I could give them.”

Parsons, 35, pleaded guilty Dec. 8 to aggravated murder charges in the April 2005 shooting death of Chillicothe police officer Larry Cox and to charges related to the escape. Parsons was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Copp, for his part, received $3,130 in reward money from Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers for being the first person to provide information leading to Parsons’ capture and arrest. A spokesman for Crime Stoppers told The Chillicothe Gazette that the amount of the reward was determined by computer based on variety of criteria, including risk to the tipster.

Considerably more reward money has yet to be doled out. The FBI, which had placed Parsons on its Most Wanted list, offered $100,000, and the U.S. Marshals offered $10,000 for information leading to the capture.

Copp appears to be less than interested in telling his story, talking about what he planned to do with the reward money or whether his scouting led to a successful deer hunt. Since Parsons’ capture, Copp has not been quoted in the press, and phone calls to his listed phone trigger the message that the number is no longer in service.

Parsons’ movements during his last weeks as a fugitive might in some ways have been influenced by deer hunters, Nelson said. During the summer, Parsons stayed hidden under heavy brush but later moved to a fishing shack near Massieville, which is located south of Chillicothe.

“Two guys thought they saw him in the shack” in September, Nelson said.

Realizing he might have been spotted and with deer season approaching, Parson decided to move at least in part by the fear of getting shot, said FBI agent Michael Kelly in a report obtained by The Columbus Dispatch.

“He reasoned he did not want to stay in the Massieville area due to the fact that deer season was approaching and he knew the Massieville area was heavily hunted,” Kelly wrote.

Although Parsons eluded searchers on the ground and in the air for nearly three months, it was the increased scouting activity related to the deer season that finally ended his run.

Nelson, who was assigned to Ross County in July 2005, said the hunt for a cop killer proved unusual in a job that typically deals with trespassers, firearms-regulation violators, and less commonly with poachers. The wildlife officer, nevertheless, was glad to be part of a team tracking down an undeniable menace to the community.

“That was the first time most of us had been part of something like that,” he said.

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