An intense manhunt came to a quiet end Monday when Bay County law enforcement officers captured a fugitive in the woods near a creek.
Stonie Shane Norris, 37, was taken into custody at about 9:00 a.m., about 15 hours after he was spotted by a deputy in Lynn Haven and fled on foot. Officers from the Bay County Sheriff's Office, Lynn Haven Police Department and Panama City Police Department pursued him all night using bloodhounds and, at times, the BCSO helicopter "Air One."
In the end, it was a citizen's tip that sent lawmen to a private road off U.S. Highway 231 in the Brannonville community. "Time after time, these cases are solved by citizens seeing something and calling 911," Major Tommy Ford of the BCSO said.
Norris is the prime suspect in a November 22 home invasion robbery and attempted murder of two people in Putnam County. According to Ford, the victims were the parents of Norris' girlfriend.
Ford said the BCSO was alerted that Norris might be headed to Bay County because he had an "associate" in the Lynn Haven area. At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, deputies spotted the fugitive near Carla Lane and Aberdeen Loop but Norris ran away, leaving behind a truck that had been reported stolen in Lake City.
Authorities recovered three guns inside the vehicle. "He was going back to the truck to get the guns at the time he was encountered by our deputies," Ford said.
The overnight search was focused in the area bordered by CR-389, CR-390 and Transmitter Road until the BCSO received a tip at 6:30 a.m. that Norris had been seen along Mill Bayou. The Brannonville homeowner said Norris approached a gate in the fence at the back of his house and then ran into some nearby woods when his dog started barking.
Authorities began closing in, again using K-9 units and the BCSO helicopter, and alerted nearby residents. "They saw us looking out the blinds and told my mom that we needed to stay inside," Paula Bright, who lives on the private road, said. "Just the thought of him being out there was pretty scary."
As deputies intensified their search in the densely wooded, muddy area near the creek, Norris made one last ditch effort to hide. "He had buried himself under about a foot of pine straw and we were able to take him into custody without incident," Ford said. Norris was unarmed and had nothing to say to deputies when he was captured, Ford said.
"I saw them walking out with him… and then they put him in the car," Bright said. "It's crazy to think that he was in my backyard."
Ford and his fellow officers were glad the manhunt came to a peaceful end. "He had a nice long night in the cold woods and so did we," he said.
Norris was transported to the Bay County jail to await his first appearance in court and extradition to Putnam County.