By JOSH NEWTON
What started as a manhunt in Tulsa Thursday morning spilled into Friday, with police continuing to seek out a man they want to question in the mysterious death of a Tahlequah professor last May.
Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King said Detectives Elden Graves and Jeff Haney traveled to the Tulsa area, along with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Thursday morning to find 33-year-old Joshua Schneider.
Detectives and the OSBI agents have developed “multiple persons of interest” throughout their work on the case, but each one had has been cleared – except Schneider, King said.
Detectives want to speak with Schneider to determine whether he was “just an acquaintance” with Tiffany Maher, or if he might be considered a suspect in her death.
Maher was found dead in her Tahlequah home in late May. Detectives said there were no visible signs of injury, but they believe the suspect in the case attempted to set fire to Maher’s body and her home.
At the time of the discovery, Maher’s vehicle was missing. It was later found in the Tulsa area at an apartment complex.
According to Haney and Graves, Schneider has refused to speak with them for at least the past three weeks.
He also has multiple addresses and has failed to register as a sex offender, which prompted a judge to issue a warrant for his arrest last week. Schneider was convicted in the ‘90s of second-degree rape in McIntosh County.
Haney said detectives have requested the specifics of that case, and the file is still en route to the local police department.
“It appears [Schneider] has enlisted the help of family and friends in his attempt to avoid us,” Haney said.
Schneider was spotted in the Tulsa area Thursday as Tahlequah detectives and other agencies began looking for him. According to Haney and Graves, Schneider rammed several police cars and other vehicles during about a half-hour-long pursuit. He ran through three roadblocks authorities set up, and eventually ditched police when traffic became heavy and officers feared for the safety of others.
Schneider’s car was found a few hours later in a wooded area near Garnett and Pine. Schneider left behind his 2-year-old child, police said, and fled on foot with woman, identified by the OSBI on Friday as 37-year-old Heather Black, of Broken Arrow.
The OSBI said Black is Schneider’s girlfriend and is not wanted for any crimes, but authorities are asking anyone who knows where she is to call police.
Canine units and a police helicopter were launched to assist in the hunt, but Schneider continued to elude authorities as the weekend loomed.
According to King, information developed in the investigation reveals Schneider had “at least some connection to Ms. Maher.”
Investigators also know Schneider is a member of multiple online dating websites and has used various names and profiles.
King has received at least half a dozen photos of Schneider from people who spoke with the fugitive on dating websites. In one photo, Schneider is shown with his child.
Haney said Schneider’s family is from the Tulsa and Broken Arrow areas, and detectives have no reason to believe he has strong ties to Tahlequah.
Anyone with information about the location of Schneider or Black is asked to call their nearest law enforcement agency or 911; or to call the OSBI hotline at (800) 522-8017. Schneider is described as 5-foot-2, about 130 pounds.
“Schneider left behind his child and has refused to speak with our detectives, and this case could play a role in why he’s running so hard,” said King
“We need to find out whether he is a suspect or simply an acquaintance.”
King is asking anyone with information about the Maher investigation to contact OSBI, or the Tahlequah Police Department at (918) 456-8801.