By RACHEL DOVE-BALDWIN
MATEWAN — An attitude to never stop searching for a defendant who, for the past seven months, has been considered a fugitive from justice after fleeing the area following a warrant being issued against him for unlawful assault proved successful for Matewan Police Chief Dave Stratton.
Monday evening, the chief was traveling toward his home when he observed Eddie Whitt in a vehicle heading in the opposite direction. Stratton was very familiar with the man, due to the fact he has been searching for him for over seven months.
“In November of last year, I obtained an arrest warrant against Eddie Whitt for one count of felony unlawful assault,” said Stratton. “The defendant’s wife, Sara Whitt, was in the back of their van removing boxes from the vehicle when her husband came at her from behind, grabbed her and dragged her out, shoving her to the ground.
“After this occurred, he threatened to kill her.”
The chief told the Daily News he had entered Whitt’s information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) after becoming aware that he had fled the area, but said Whitt had successfully flown below the radar and had managed to stay on the run for the past few months.
“I figured that sooner or later, he would come back to Matewan to visit his family or go to his wife’s residence, it was really only a matter of time,” said Stratton. “I’m a very patient man, and I never give up searching for someone that’s wanted by the law.”
After passing Whitt on the roadway, the chief said that he went home, changed into his uniform and drove his cruiser to the location he suspected Whitt was heading toward, and sure enough, his hunches paid off.
“I was there waiting on him when he pulled in,” said Stratton. “He was taken into custody without incident.”
Whitt was arraigned before Mingo County Magistrate Pam Newsome who set bail at $10,000. Whitt was transported to the Southwestern Regional Jail where he remains incarcerated until such time he is scheduled for a hearing on this matter.
“When they let their guard down and figure you’ve gave up on catching them, that’s when they’re brave enough to come back to town – and that’s when they realize that we don’t quit, we don’t ever stop looking,” said the chief.
“It’s better to face the charges than to try to outrun us, it only makes it worse on them in the end.”