Frederick Russell, on the run for four years from a horrific auto accident that killed three students near Pullman, has been captured in Ireland, authorities said Monday.
SPOKANE – Frederick D. Russell, on the run for four years from a horrific auto accident that killed three students near Pullman, has been captured in Ireland, authorities said Monday.
Russell, 27, was arrested Sunday by the Irish National Police at a store in Dublin, where he worked, U.S. Marshal Michael Kline said. He was working under the alias of David Carroll, Kline said.
The Marshals Service received a tip about Russell last January, shortly after he became the first drunken driver ever placed on the agency’s 15 most-wanted list.
After verifying the tip, officials in the U.S. prepared an extradition request, and then had to wait for Irish officials to process the request and for a judge there to sign an arrest warrant, Kline said.
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“The last nine months have been nerve-wracking,” Kline said. “We knew one leak could have caused Frederick Russell to flee and disappear again.”
Russell can challenge his extradition in Irish courts, and can have a bail hearing, Kline said.
The process of extraditing Russell has already begun, said Carol LaVerne of the Whitman County prosecutor’s office.
“That is a long and complicated process,” LaVerne said from the county seat of Colfax.
Russell is being held in an Irish jail, Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said.
“I’m being told he was taken into custody without incident,” Myers said. “We’re certainly glad Mr. Russell’s been captured. It’s been a long time.”
At the time of his run, authorities said Russell had an Irish Cross tattoo on his upper left arm and a shamrock on his back.
Russell, a former Washington State University student, was charged with three counts of vehicular homicide and four counts of vehicular assault for a 2001 accident that killed three people and injured three others on state Highway 270, the two-lane road that connects the college towns of Pullman, Wash., and Moscow, Idaho.
Accident reports said the Chevrolet Blazer that Russell was driving was trying to pass other vehicles when it struck three cars the night of June 4, 2001.
The dead and seriously injured were in one car, whose occupants were returning from a movie. Killed were WSU seniors Brandon Clements, 22, of Wapato, Stacy G. Morrow, 21, of Milton, and Ryan Sorensen, 21, of Westport.
Seriously injured were John Wagner of Harrington, Kara Eichelsdoerfer of Central Park and Sameer Ranade of Kennewick. The fourth vehicular assault charge involved a person in another vehicle, who was not seriously hurt.
Russell suffered minor injuries. At a hospital after the crash, his blood-alcohol level measured .12 percent, well above Washington state’s intoxication threshold of 0.08.
In late October 2001, Russell’s lawyer failed in his bid to quash the blood-alcohol test on grounds that it was administered by a Washington State Patrol trooper, while the accident scene was actually just across the Idaho border.
At that point, prosecutors contend Russell sold some of his baseball cards, apparently took $1,300 from his father’s bank account and fled. That led to charges of bail jumping and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Russell’s father, Gregory Russell, former head of WSU’s criminal-justice program and a former prosecutor, paid his son’s $5,000 bail but has denied knowing he planned to flee.
Now director of the Criminology Department at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Gregory Russell did not immediately return a telephone message on Monday. In the past, he has publicly urged his son to come home and face the charges.
Shortly after he jumped bail, Gregory Russell and several local newspapers received a letter signed by Frederick Russell. It read in part: “I left because I had no choice. Since the first day after the tragic accident, horrible things have been printed about me. Now people are so enraged that they would rather see me dead than receive a fair trial. I maintain my innocence. But my life has been repeatedly threatened, so I cannot stay.”
The Marshals Service has said in the past it believed Russell was involved in marijuana smuggling. He was thought to be traveling in British Columbia, the Yukon Territory and Alaska.
Last January, the Marshals Service placed Russell on its 15 most wanted list because of “the horrific nature of this car crash” and the fact Russell chose to flee from justice. He was described as “armed and dangerous,” and known to associate with drug smugglers.
Russell left other casualties besides those in the wrecked car.
In July 2004, former University of West Florida criminal justice professor Bernadette Olson was sentenced to six months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for helping Russell flee. Olson, a family friend, pleaded guilty to a charge that she lied to federal investigators.
She was a graduate student at WSU when she drove Russell from Pullman to the airport in Calgary, Alberta, on Oct. 23, 2001.
In December 2001, a friend of Russell was charged with witness tampering, accused of trying to get a bartender who had served Russell to change his story about how much the defendant drank.
Two TV shows, “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries,” have had segments about Russell’s disappearance.