Local News

Law Officers Track Down, Arrest Suspected Campground Killer

Posted August 4, 1998

— The manhunt for a suspected killer is over. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Department arrested 21-year-old James Andrew Finley Jr. about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Several other law enforcement agencies, including the Richmond and Burke County Sheriff's departments, assisted with the search.

Richmond County officers captured Finley near the Mount Gilead Hunting Lodge off N.C. 109 along the Richmond County border.

Finley is suspected of killing two Charlotte residents this past weekend who were camping in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, about 125 miles away from the location where he was caught Wednesday.

``We're tired and we're thankful,'' said Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Jordan. ``No one was hurt, and that's a big thing.''

Finley, 21, of Hickory, had watched with great interest and admiration the search for Rudolph, the suspected abortion clinic bomber who has eluded authorities for seven months in the rugged North Carolina mountains.

Fifty law officers from a dozen agencies searched a four-square-mile area at the Richmond-Montgomery county line. Two nights ago, police say he attempted to use one of the slain victims' ATM cards at a bank in the area.

Monday night, law officers got close to the suspect, chasing him onto a dirt road. The car Finley was driving, which belonged to the victims, kicked up so much dust on the road, the officers lost him. Tuesday, they found the car, but not Finley.

Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Jordan said after his dogs picked up Finley's scent, they focused the search to the vicinity of the Wednesday sighting.

Larry Little lives down the road from the hunt club where Finley was found. He may have helped in the capture. He says that he called police after he saw a man that looked like Finley on his back porch.

"I was laying on the couch watching TV, and all of a sudden my doorbell rang," Little said. "So by the time I could get up and go to the door, I looked out the window and saw this white dude fleeing off my back porch."

Finley is a survivalist and a member of a hunting club. He reportedly bragged to friends he could elude police just as easily as bombing suspect Eric Rudolph, who's the subject of another intensive search right now in the western part of the state.

Finley's father was at the scene Tuesday, and called investigators again Wednesday. Authorities say he assisted in the capture of his son.

Finley was armed with a rifle and a handgun when he was confronted by deputies, said SBI special agent Bart Burpeau.

Authorities fired a warning shot at Finley and he dropped his weapons and surrendered immediately, Burpeau said.

Finley was taken to the Burke County jail late Wednesday. A court date has not been set, Burpeau said.

More than 200 relieved residents gathered at the command post in Pekin, about 10 miles east of where Finley was captured, to applaud the searchers and to see the man who had turned their lives upside down.

``I just wanted to look at his face,'' said Keith Housley, 40, a logging trucker. ``He looked like a normal 21-year-old who got himself in deep trouble. I hope he gets everything he deserves.'' The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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