• Wanted man spotted in pond arrested after 2-week manhunt

    By: Kathryn Burcham

    Updated:

    ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - A Richmond County man will face a federal judge after his capture on federal drug charges, ending a two week manhunt across two counties.
     
    Investigators said a 911 call from a Montgomery County resident Thursday afternoon led to them John Rillo's location, where an North Carolina Highway Patrol helicopter pilot spotted him swimming across a pond.
     
    "There's somebody who's laying down, well not laying down, but like ducking in the woods," the caller told dispatchers. "I'm not sure if it's the guy you've been looking for."
     
    Authorities first notified residents in Richmond and Montgomery counties to be on the lookout for Rillo through a reverse 911 call.
     
    The Richmond County Sheriff said the chaos ensued on July 11, when one of his deputies, who also serves on the ATF Task Force, went to Rillo's parents' home in Montgomery County to serve an arrest warrant for federal drugs and weapons charges.
     
    During the arrest, Sheriff James Clemmons said Rillo, while still handcuffed, managed to escape and run away from the deputy and disappeared into the woods.
     
    "Anyone that's on the run from federal warrants you to consider them to have the propensity to be dangerous," Sheriff Clemmons said.
     
    Clemmons said Rillo broke into a nearby church and managed to break off his handcuffs before disappearing in the area for nearly two weeks, crisscrossing between Richmond and Montgomerycounties in an area which authorities said was very familiar to him.
     
    "I think he's pretty much a hunter, a country style survivalist. This was his home neighborhood," said Montgomery County Sheriff Dempsey Owens.
     
    Owens said Rillo stole an ATV during his time on the run and would break into homes to steal food and survival tools.
     
    "We would find food sitting on the table like it's thawing out, coming from the freezer. We had one house that was broken into that had a bunch of military knives and stuff," Owens said.
     
    Authorities said residents were frightened during the two-week manhunt and were an important part of the eventual arrest.
     
    "We had people calling on a daily basis and asking if we had caught him. They were worried about their houses getting broken into, their property getting stolen," said Candor Police Chief Randy White.
     
    After the 911 call that alerted authorities to Rillo's location, a state trooper pulled Rillo from the pond and arrested him, according to investigators.
     
    Rillo is now in federal custody and will face a judge in Greensboro on Aug. 1.
     
    Rillo's parents had no comment when reached by Channel 9.

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