Durant (Okla.) Daily Democrat, Thursday, May 18, 1978

Officers Comb County In Search For Killers

The biggest-yet manhunt for fugitives Claude Dennis and Michael Lancaster ranged across Bryan county during the night and continued today in the Colbert-Cartwright area.

Officers, short of sleep and full of frustration, had what they called "positive" identification of the pair, wanted for murder of Denison storekeeper Bobby Spencer.

That came from a store owner at Milburn, Ernest Moore, who told Johnston county sheriff Bud Reed that Lancaster entered the grocery about 7:30 p.m. and brought two cans of beer and a pack of Kool cigarettes.

He said the customer appeared "real nervous," prompting him to call Reed. The man had a two or three-day growth of beard and was wearing dirty army fatigue clothing. He said another man, with a heavy beard, remained in the car. They pulled up to the gas pumps and sat a few minutes before one came into the store, Moore's Stop and Go.

Reed, armed with pictures of Dennis and Lancaster, arrived minutes later after an eight-mile drive from Tishomingo. He said that Moore felt "pretty sure" Lancaster was the customer.

Highway patrol supervisor Mike Williams, Durant, also went to the store as roadblocks were being set up, and then Moore again identified Lancaster, this time from a different set of pictures.

The patrol bought troopers in from the Durant, McAlester and Ardmore OHP districts to join sheriff's officers from four counties in an attempt - which proved futile - to bottle up the pair.

Moore told officers the car was a dark green 1963 or 1964 Dodge with a white stripe, carrying Bryan county license plate BR-6277. Another Milburn area resident, told authorities he had seen the auto at the side of the road earlier, the hood up and two men in military clothing apparently working on the engine.

The tag checked to a later model car, with a Colbert resident listed as the owner.

Officers stopped and checked moving cars throughout the night but came up empty-handed. A report two men were seen stealing gasoline from a school bus at nearby Fillmore drew a blank.

The search shifted abruptly back into Bryan county at 5:15 a.m. today when Colbert city marshal Herman Hitchcock met a car with a BR-6277 tag on the highway overpass there. He said it was about a 1970 model - much newer than the one Moore described.

He had to leave the overpass to get on the southbound lane and went as far as the Denison truck stop at better than 100 miles an hour without sighting the car again.

Texas state and county authorities had roadblocks at Red river crossings during the hunt in the Milburn area, but had removed them during the night without notifying Oklahoma officials. They put  them back up again for a time after Hitchcock made his sighting.

The highway patrol brought in planes from McAlester and Ardmore after dawn to aid in the lake area search.

The renewed manhunt brought another flood of calls to both the OHP and sheriff's office - among them an effort by two men to enter a house south of Bokchito, a woman who called from Armstrong but hung up abruptly and wouldn't answer on a callback, and a car abandoned in a ditch on a county road southeast of Caney.