A former Cal Fire battalion chief who eluded capture for more than two weeks was arrested Friday for the murder of his girlfriend.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said at a news conference early Friday evening Orville "Moe" Fleming, "admitted culpability in the stabbing of Ms. (Sarah June) Douglas on May 1st." Fleming, 55, was interviewed by homicide detectives for a couple of hours about Douglas' death and where he had been hiding, Jones said.
Fleming was taken into custody earlier in the day only a few miles from where his Cal Fire pickup truck was found abandoned in an Elk Grove neighborhood, near Apricot Woods Way and Black Kite Drive, on May 1. Det. Brian Meux said Fleming had been living in heavy brush along a small canal near that location.
Meux said Fleming had come out of hiding Friday morning to buy some food. When Fleming was arrested, his mustache was shaved off, and detectives said he did not appear to have had a weapon. Sometime while he was hiding, Fleming had also ventured out to buy a change of clothes.
"He did the fleeing equivalent of curling up in the fetal position and just hunkering down," Jones said.
Fleming told detectives that he hadn't eaten for days. He appeared to be without any clear plan, Jones said.
"I think it was reactive. I don't know that he actually went over there to commit this homicide," Jones explained. "Who knows? Only Mr. Fleming knows that for sure but certainly didn't have any plan as to how to get away either in short-term or in long-term."
Deputies have been searching for Fleming during the past 15 days after his girlfriend Sarah June Douglas, 26, was found stabbed and strangled in her south Sacramento home in the 9300 block of Fox River Way on May 1. Investigators said Fleming moved in with Douglas after meeting her as an escort who advertised on the Internet.
Jones said law enforcement searched the area surrounding her home and where Fleming's truck was found using the latest technology and K-9s, but did not find him. Fleming even told detectives he could hear the helicopters that were looking for him from his hiding spot in the bushes.
"Earlier [Friday], despite the extensive and absolute state-of-the-art technology and investigative techniques we have been utilizing during this time period, it came down to good, old-fashion police work," Jones said about Fleming's arrest.
A detective searching for Fleming in the Elk Grove neighborhood spotted a man that looked like Fleming board a bus and followed him on board. When both men disembarked, the detective asked the man if he was Fleming, and Fleming said yes.
Jones said Fleming was taken into custody without incident. He was booked into the Sacramento County Jail on a no-bail warrant for murder.
Investigators said Fleming did have some money with him, but they had not seen any activity in his bank account, which they were monitoring during the manhunt.
Detectives followed up on possible sightings of Fleming as far away as Oregon. They spent hours questioning friends, some female escorts Fleming knew and his family members.
Jones said he had no information on a reported sex tape with an escort and other firefighters Fleming's estranged wife claimed she had seen.
"I can say with confidence that we were never, and are still not aware, of any so-called sex tape that exists as described," Jones said. "That's not to say one exists. We just don't know."
On Friday evening, Douglas' aunt Trina Werly released this statement on the arrest:
Sarah's family is relieved that Orville Fleming has been caught. We're grateful for the opportunity for the truth to come out so that our family can have closure and move on. Thank you."
Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant issued this statement about Fleming's arrest:
"We are pleased that this search is over and the Sheriff's Office has apprehended Mr. Fleming. We will continue to support the Sheriff and the District Attorney in any way we can as the judicial process continues."