‘Excellent place to hide’: Wanted sex offender found hiding in Burke Co. forest

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — A nine-month nationwide manhunt ended in the forests of Burke County when authorities caught a convicted sex offender on Thursday.

Law enforcement began searching for Johnathan Dove in June 2023. He was spotted in Ohio, Texas and Florida before authorities tracked him to a remote campsite in the Pisgah National Forest.

Dove was wanted by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for two counts of failure to comply with sexual offender registration. He was convicted in 2019 for unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

Due to his conviction, Dove was designated a sexual offender with a registration period of life in Florida.

According to the sheriff’s office, Dove was spotted buying an SUV in Ohio and was then seen in Texas last June after cutting his hair short.

“We know he was in Ohio where he purchased a vehicle seen here. We know he was in Texas in June and as you can see his hair has been cut,” said Sheriff Woods in Marion County.

He was eventually arrested by federal marshals in Pisgah National Forest, where he had been camping. Investigators said they received information that led them to search that location.

Channel 9′s Dave Faherty spoke with firefighters who sometimes conduct search and rescue missions in the area.

“It’s an excellent place to hide. Most of the time we have no radio coverage, no cell phone coverage, so you’re just going into the area being aware that you are not going to have a lot of coverage,” said Oak Hill Fire Chief Jimmy Winters.

A woman was with Dove when he was arrested, but she doesn’t face charges.

Authorities said Dove is being kept at the Burke County jail before being extradited to Florida.

VIDEO: Man in jail after not appearing in court on charges involving sex crimes against a minor