WALLACE – John Rollins Tuggle’s car has been found abandoned and pushed over a steep embankment off a high mountain road just a mile from the Montana border.
Authorities believe the suspect in the stabbing of his own daughter is somewhere in the wilderness.
Shoshone County Sheriff Chuck Reynalds said Monday that Tuggle, 37, likely has a compound bow with razor-edge arrows and another weapon, which Reynalds would not specify.
Tuggle also may have a fishing pole, pack and bedroll and some food, including beef jerky, hard rolls and Doritos.
“He had told his parents that he would someday like to live in the outdoors of North Idaho and escape peo-ple,” Reynalds said. “We don’t know for sure if this is what he’s trying to do or not.”
Law enforcement launched a search for Tuggle late Wednesday evening after a family setting up camp north of Prichard, Idaho, heard Tuggle’s 12-year-old daughter’s cries for help. Tuggle picked up his daughter Wednesday morning in Athol to take her to the mall, but authorities say the registered sex offender instead took her to a campsite in the Coeur d’Alene River drainage near Lost Creek.
She was bound and stabbed five times with a pocketknife. Reynalds said his office is awaiting lab results to determine whether the girl was sexually assaulted.
“We have speculation and suspicion, but we don’t have proof,” he said.
Tuggle hadn’t seen his daughter for nearly 10 years because he was in prison serving time for raping and impregnating his then-13-year-old sister-in-law.
Investigators were interviewing the stabbing victim and her mother Monday afternoon at Sacred Heart Medical Center. Reynalds said the girl is still in serious condition.
Reynalds said Sunday’s discovery of Tuggle’s car in the St. Joe River drainage – about 40 miles south of where the girl was found – may indicate Tuggle is still in the area.
The car was found by a Forest Service enforcement officer off Bullion Creek Road. Reynalds said it appeared the car had been put into neutral and then pushed over the edge. A tree prevented the car from going into a canyon, he said.
Bullion Creek Road climbs a narrow canyon with trees so thick they nearly form a tunnel. The road branches off Moon Pass Road – a well-used link between Wallace and Avery that’s impassable in the winter – about 17 miles from Wallace.
Reynalds said it appeared Tuggle’s car was found not long after it was abandoned.
“It was a great bit of police work by the law enforcement officer that found it,” he said. “I think I would have driven by it the rest of my life and never seen it. You could barely see it from the road.”
Tuggle could have easily hiked across the state line into Montana in just a couple of hours from where the car was found, Reynalds said.
Authorities are now focusing their search on the St. Joe River drainage. The area has several old mining claims, shafts and shacks. On Sunday, the sheriff’s SWAT team searched an old mining building in the mountains, but found no sign of Tuggle. Crews have flown over the area and identified other possible hiding places to search, Reynalds said.
Tuggle could easily survive in the wild if the weather remains warm, Reynalds said.
“It’s a huge area,” he said. “There’s water everywhere.”
According to Reynalds, Tuggle was last seen the evening of the stabbing fishing at a campsite. Reynalds wouldn’t specify where Tuggle was seen, but he said Tuggle did identify himself to campers there.
The sheriff said it wasn’t clear if Tuggle had planned the attack in advance, but said it appears he purchased supplies before taking his daughter into the forest.
His car, held in evidence at the Shoshone County shop, now has a broken bumper and grill and is covered with a thick layer of dirt and dust. A denim jacket, duffel bag and paper targets were visible through the windows.
As the search for Tuggle continued, his brother struggled with unanswered questions.
“I wish I knew why this happened, but no one does,” Chris Tuggle said in an email to the newspaper. “If there was signs maybe the Tuggle family could have done something, but there wasn’t.”
Chris Tuggle said he was having a hard time dealing with the situation. His brother had come to live with him in Hayden, Colo., following his release from prison, he told the paper last week.
He said in Monday’s e-mail that he has never met his brother’s ex-wife and daughter, but that he was praying for them.
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