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Armed citizen helps end manhunt.

On October 18, 2003, A.J. and Patsy Cantrell were slain in their home in Depew, Oklahoma. Mr. Cantrell was severely beaten about his face and head, while his wife of more than 50 years died from a shotgun blast to her back.

The Cantrells lived across the street from John and Carla Wright, whose daughter, Kathy Biggs, had recently broken up with boyfriend Scott Eizember. Biggs and Eizember had shared a Tulsa apartment, but, after Eizember became abusive, Biggs severed the relationship and moved out. She also filed burglary and domestic charges against Eizember. Although jailed, Eizember managed to get out on bond. He then made his way to the Cantrell house on October 18, apparently murdering the owners so he could use the house as a watch post while waiting for Biggs to return to her parents' home.

Later that day, after Carla Wright and Biggs' son, Tyler (16), returned home, Eizember confronted them and tried to force them to disclose Biggs' whereabouts. When Tyler began to run, Eizember shot him, and when Mrs. Wright began screaming, the enraged man beat her severely with the butt of the shotgun.

Tyler climbed into his pickup truck, but, as he attempted to drive away, Eizember jumped into the truck bed and shot the youth again. The vehicle crashed, and Eizember fled from the scene. Tyler was hospitalized in critical condition, but survived and is recovering. Mrs. Wright was hospitalized for a few days and released.

Law enforcement personnel combed the Creek County area close to the crime scene for nearly three weeks before scaling back the search after no signs of Eizember were found. On November 8, he was featured on the popular Fox television show America's Most Wanted. But not until November 23, when Eizember was spotted in the pantry of a food bank next door to the First Methodist Church in Depew, was there a major break in the case.

Evidence subsequently gathered by authorities indicated that, after hiding in the woods for many days (during which he broke into at least three homes to steal food and water), Eizember snuck into the church food bank on or about October 29, hid in a closet with access to the building's attic, and thereafter watched news reports about the manhunt on television while pilfering pantry food.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m. on November 23, Doyce Pitre, an elderly female food bank volunteer, went to the pantry to collect some provisions for a needy family. When she opened the door, she saw Eizember, who was armed with a handgun. The frightened woman turned and ran to a nearby house to call police, falling and breaking an ankle on the way. Eizember took Pitre's keys from the pantry door where she had left them, found her car, and drove about 200 miles before running out of gas near Waldron, Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Dr. Samuel Peebles and his wife Suzanne were on their way home to Nashville, Arkansas, when they noticed the pantry worker's disabled car and stopped to see if they could render assistance. (He is an emergency room physician, and she is a registered nurse.) Eizember told them that he was on his way to Texarkana (on the Texas-Arkansas border) to pick up his girlfriend.

The Peebles offered him a lift to a nearby convenience store, but, as they approached the store, Eizember pulled his handgun and ordered them to keep driving. Mrs. Peebles tried unsuccessfully to wrestle the gun from him, then Dr. Peebles implored him to simply take their van and leave them unharmed. But Eizember said he wanted them to drive and warned, "I'm already gonna be on death row in Oklahoma. I wouldn't hesitate killing you."

During what ended up being a 300-mile journey south, the Peebles convinced their captor to stop for a bathroom break. Eizember made them visit the restrooms separately, threatening to shoot one if the other attempted to "pull anything."

During a second restroom stop, Dr. Peebles was finally able to slump down and retrieve a .22-caliber revolver kept for self-protection in the compartment of a van door. He hid it in the lining of his jacket. Later, during yet another bathroom break near Lufkin, Texas, Dr. Peebles decided to make his move. As he emerged from the van, he drew the revolver and started firing until the gun was empty.

Three shots found their mark, striking Eizember in the chest, but they did not disable him. Eizember began pistol-whipping Dr. Peebles, who later recalled that "after about the third blow, I just went down and stayed on the ground and acted like I was out." He expected to be shot, but was not. Only later did he learn that the firing pin in Eizember's gun was defective.

Eizember fled in the van, leaving the Peebles stranded. The couple walked to a nearby home, where the resident called 911 and told the operator that a man and woman had come to his home bleeding and needing help. The Peebles were treated for their relatively minor injuries at a hospital in Lufkin before returning to Nashville.

Eizember drove about two dozen miles further south before stopping at a grocery store in Corrigan to ask for help with his wounds. A store employee called police, but by the time they arrived Eizember had fled. The store clerk's detailed description of both the suspect and the van enabled authorities to soon spot the vehicle and force Eizember to pull over, bringing the 37-day manhunt to an end.

Eizember was hospitalized for a few days for treatment of his wounds, then transferred to the Angelina County jail in Lufkin. He was charged with first-degree murder (two counts), shooting with intent to kill, and assault and battery with a deadly weapon. He also faces federal charges for kidnapping the Peebles. After waiving extradition, he was returned to Oklahoma, where he pleaded innocent to the charges during his arraignment. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for January 2 in Bristow, where "Doyce Pitre Day" had been declared on November 26 to honor the food bank volunteer who first spotted him and called police. Pitre was given a key to the city, a $1,800 check and a van.

Dr. Peebles has been lauded as a hero, but he told reporters on November 25 that he was "just a man who survived a difficult situation by the grace of God and the help of prayers of so many people. I am a man who was trying his hardest to keep himself and his wife alive." While he did not "take delight in having to shoot Mr. Eizember," and had always opposed violence, he believes that "this situation called for the action I took."
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Title Annotation:Exercising the right: "... the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Author:Lee, Robert W.
Publication:The New American
Date:Jan 26, 2004
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