Alleged child rapist on the run was an Army scout, Iraq veteran
Authorities stressed the importance Wednesday afternoon of finding a stolen car they believe a fugitive charged with child rape may be using, as he continues to elude investigators.
David Allen Hamilton Jr., 47, of Lower Southampton Township in Bucks County, is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army and was a Cavalry scout who served two tours in Iraq, township police Chief Ted Krimmel revealed. He said the information on Hamilton’s background came anecdotally from friends and family of the suspect.
Local and federal investigators described the car reported stolen Wednesday morning in the New Hope area of Bucks County as a white Toyota Avalon with Pennsylvania license plate PD3759P.
The car was stolen from the 200 block of Bobwhite Road in the Fox Run Preserve neighborhood of Solebury Township in Bucks County. It belonged to a neighbor of a woman accused of helping Hamilton to hide out from Friday night or early Saturday through Tuesday night.
The woman, Meredith Custodio, was arrested Wednesday on charges of hindering apprehension and conspiracy, police announced at a news conference. Familiar to Hamilton, Custodio was the caregiver to a 78-year-old woman living in Fox Run and is believed to have sheltered Hamilton in the elderly woman’s home.
Detectives developed information Custodio knew Hamilton and visited the house two times, Friday and Tuesday. She denied knowledge of Hamilton’s whereabouts, police said, but she was charged after police investigated the stolen car report next door.
Authorities on Wednesday also released a surveillance photo that shows Hamilton purchasing a white tent with red top Sept. 15 from the Oxford Valley Target, according to Robert Clark, a supervising deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service based in Philadelphia.
“He’s got clean clothes, obviously some money and a vehicle so he’s mobile and he can go anywhere,” Solebury Township police Chief Dominick Bellizze told reporters Wednesday at the township building. “I don’t know if he’s still in the area or not.”
On the run from authorities since last Wednesday, Hamilton is believed to be hiding out in woods along the Delaware River separating Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“He has the tent, he’s camping out, he has the Army background,” Bellizze said. “We believe he may be down by the river in a wooded area like he was before. That’s why we’re concentrating a lot of our efforts there.”
Hamilton is charged with the rape of two young girls, described as relatives of each other but not of him. Law enforcement has been watching the victims and their family, including visiting their school daily, as Hamilton continues to elude investigators.
“We’re confident they’re going to be OK” while Hamilton remains on the loose, said Kimmel, the Lower Southampton chief.
Investigators ask anyone who sees the stolen Toyota sedan or the white tent with red top to call the U.S. Marshals tip-line at 866-865-8477 (TIPS) or 911.
The Marshals Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading directly to Hamilton’s arrest.
“It’s imperative for us right now to find that vehicle,” Clark said. “It gives us a starting point of where Mr. Hamilton may be. And it’s just important for the public to be vigilant to try and locate that vehicle and also if they’ve seen that teent any time in the last week … I’d ask the public to be vigilant in reporting that tent if they’ve noticed that.”
Police described Hamilton as dangerous and possibly armed. In addition to raping two children, he fought with a New Hope police officer and Friday and tried to steal the officer’s firearm before fleeing, authorities said.
An archery hunter spotted Hamilton in the woods Friday and supplied photos of him to investigators.
Authorities do not anticipate having to limit recreational activities in the search area, and say hunters may be of assistance if they see Hamilton, the stolen car or the tent. A heavy law enforcement presence aims to keep the public safe during the manhunt.
“I don’t think it’s unsafe to be out and about,” Bellizze said. “As I said, I’d keep my eyes open.”
Marshals on Friday wrapped up a three-month manhunt that led to the arrest in Ohio of Shawn Christy, the New Jersey native and Pennsylvania resident accused of threatening President Donald Trump and other officials.
“We’re well-versed in rural searches, long-term searches,” Clark said. “The Marshals Service specializes in finding sex offenders. So we believe we’re prepared and we’re up to the task and we hope to bring Mr. Hamilton into custody as soon as possible.”