The 19-day manhunt for a Missouri truck driver, charged with strangling his former girlfriend and drowning her 11-year-old daughter, is over after he was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound late Wednesday in South Dakota.
Capt. Brian Leer of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office told FreightWaves Thursday morning that law enforcement in Missouri linked J.T. McLean, 45, of Fulton, to two other homicide victims who were discovered around 8 p.m. Wednesday in Miller County, Missouri, located near the Lake of the Ozarks.
According to a statement issued by the Union County Sheriff’s Office in Elk Point, South Dakota, law enforcement there received a tip from the U.S. Marshals Service that McLean “was believed to be in a vehicle he had stolen from one of the victims.” OnStar located the vehicle in a motel parking lot in the Dakota Dunes area, where McLean was known to have family, the release said.
A drone was deployed over the vehicle and McLean was found dead in the stolen vehicle by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the sheriff’s office said.
The investigation took a turn Wednesday after McLean was linked to two more homicide victims who were discovered in Miller County, Leer said.
Around 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, the Miller County Sheriff’s Office announced they were investigating a double homicide at a residence belonging to relatives of one of McLean’s ex-wives. The sheriff’s office later identified the victims as Daniel Stephan, 74, and Pamela Stephan, 64. Authorities did not release how the Stephans died.
Manhunt started Aug. 22
Investigators had been searching for McLean since Aug. 22 after his former girlfriend, Allison Abitz, 43, a second-grade teacher at Bush Elementary School in Fulton, was found lying on her bed and “bruising around the area of her neck suggests she was strangled.”
Her daughter, Jozee Abitz, who was set to start sixth grade in Fulton in mid-August, was found submerged in a bathtub filled with water, according to the probable cause statement.
Boone County Chief Prosecutor Daniel Knight charged McLean with two counts of first-degree murder on Aug. 25, three days after Boone County deputies found the two bodies.
Both were wearing their pajamas, according to court documents.
According to the probable cause statement, investigators believe the victims were killed between 11:22 p.m. CDT on Aug. 21 and 10:15 a.m. on Aug. 22, based on a witness statement and video footage.
Investigators claim that McLean was the last person in contact with Abitz and her daughter. The three were at the house of a witness until around 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 21, according to the statement, then were later seen together on video footage entering and exiting a Hy-Vee grocery store. A Hy-Vee receipt was found at the scene, according to the statement by Columbia Police Officer David Wilson.
Allison Abitz’s vehicle was seen at approximately 11:22 p.m. on a neighborhood security system entering the subdivision. Investigators allege that McLean left the victims’ residence in his black Lexus RC coupe around 10:15 a.m. the next morning, according to a neighbor’s video system.
Court filings state that McLean’s vehicle was later found at a residence he is known to stay at in Callaway County, Missouri, according to the probable cause statement. Investigators also found a smoldering burn pile in which two Android phones were destroyed, according to court filings.
McLean’s older brother, Steven Nagy, 55, of Las Vegas, told FreightWaves recently that he was shocked that McLean had been charged in the double homicide. A Boone County judge had issued a warrant for McLean’s arrest and had set a $1 million cash-only bond.
Court documents show two orders of protection have been taken out against McLean since 2017. He is on probation for violating one of them with his ex-wife in 2018. However, Leer said the protective orders did not involve Abitz or her daughter.
McLean drove for Nagy’s trucking company, Challenger Express, headquartered in Las Vegas, prior to his death.
This is a developing story.
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