Durant (Okla.) Daily Democrat, Wednesday, May 24, 1978

Alabama Officers Find Dennis, Lancaster Crafty Fugitives

CUBA, Ala. (UPI) - Two heavily armed Oklahoma fugitives wanted for a least three killings are following the pattern they have used after other crimes and hiding in the woods near where authorities believe they struck last, a sheriff's deputy said today.

"They're experts at living in the woods so there are no tricks," said Barbara Stephens, a Sumter County deputy and wife of the sheriff. "All waste, all cigarette butts and all evidence of where they are is buried.

"Their habit is after a crime they do not run. They stay in the vicinity." The sheriff's department believes their last crime was the murder of an elderly woman at her home late Monday.

About 150 state troopers and deputies have road blocks set up and are searching on foot with bloodhounds and in the air with two state helicopters. The Mississippi Highway Patrol also has roadblocks set up along the state line.

Mrs. Stephens said residents in the area are jumpy.

"Somebody sees a man cross the road that they don't know and they call," she said.

The fugitives, identified as Claude Eugene Dennis, 35, and Michael Lancaster, 25, were suspected of forcing their way into the home of Stacy Beavers, 68, slaying her and fleeing in her car.

"It was the same M.O. (mode of operation) and we pinpointed them early last evening, three to four miles from the vicinity," said Mrs. Stephens.

"They did take her vehicle, a 1976 Mercury station wagon.

"They are determined at this time to be thrill killers," said Mrs. Stephens, wife of the sheriff.

Mrs. Stephens said area residents are jumpy.

Authorities began searching for the men in two southwest Alabama counties last week after the Butler city policeman was wounded and a state trooper assaulted.

Mrs. Stephens said Miss Beavers, who lived alone, had returned home from a women's club meeting Monday might when she was slain. Police were alerted by a caller who noticed Miss Beavers' front door open and her car not in front of her home Tuesday morning.

"They waited outside her home. She was not home. As she arrived and turned the key in her door, they stepped up and followed her on in."

An autopsy report revealed Miss Beavers' throat was cut and she was struck in the head with a blunt instrument.

"Then they took her-keys and vehicle and left and cut her telephone lines," Mrs. Stephens said. "They apparently cut the lines prior to entry in the home."

The men also are suspects in the slaying of bait shop owner Bobby Lee Spencer near Denison, Texas, and are wanted for questioning in the death of David Bobo, who body was found in a north Texas lake several days after the Spencer killing.

Trooper Lt. Roy Smith said in addition to the Texas slaying, the wounding of the Butler police officer and assault of the trooper, the men were thought to be suspects in at least two other murders in other states. But he said his information had not been confirmed.

Smith said the troopers sent two tactical teams, two helicopters and a mobile command post from Montgomery to the Cuba area.

Dennis was serving 50 years for manslaughter and Lancaster was serving 25 years for robbery when they escaped from the Oklahoma state penitentiary April 23.

The search for the men began Friday night with the discovery of a stolen car marching the description of one used by two men wanted for the shotgun wounding of Butler policeman Dean Roberts. Trooper John Christenberry stopped a stolen car in Sumter County last Wednesday and the driver opened fire with a shotgun.

Christenberry was not injured.