Originally created 11/17/00

Multistate hunt for alleged car thief continues



SAVANNAH - A man who was the subject of a massive manhunt earlier this week in west Chatham County resurfaced in a police chase early Wednesday in South Carolina.

And again the man eluded authorities.

The story in Dorchester County, S.C., mirrors what happened just days ago outside Savannah.

Again there are stolen vehicles. Another run from police followed by another large manhunt. The same woman at the scene.

And her same allegations of kidnapping.

The odd, confusing story pivots around Floridian Richard Hubbard, 31, who authorities are trying to find.

It also stars his female companion, Dee Kay Bannister, 41, who, from jail, continues to distance herself from Mr. Hubbard's antics by telling authorities that he kidnapped her at knife point.

The couple used to live in Marathon in the Florida Keys. But they left on a Greyhound bus and stole a car in Jacksonville this month, said FBI Senior Supervisory Resident Agent William Kirkconnell in Savannah.

"She is clearly in cahoots with him," Agent Kirkconnell said.

"Our investigation was to confirm or challenge her allegations of kidnapping. She can consider her allegations officially challenged."

Here's the first part of the story: On Georgia Highway 21 on Sunday evening, a Port Wentworth officer spotted Mr. Hubbard driving a Toyota Corolla erratically. The officer tried to stop him, and a chase ensued.

The pursuit continued onto Interstate 95, then Jimmy DeLoach Parkway, before the man jumped from the car and ran.

Authorities learned the car was reported stolen Nov. 3 from Jacksonville. An unsuccessful 13-hour manhunt followed, using numerous police resources, including tracking dogs and a Georgia State Patrol helicopter.

Meanwhile, the woman left behind in the car, Ms. Bannister, told police the man had kidnapped her Saturday from downtown Jacksonville and had driven her to Chatham County. The man was unidentified at the time.

Ms. Bannister initially gave FBI agents an alias. After agents learned her true identity, she was arrested on a felony warrant for probation violation in Florida. The violation stemmed from a possession of cocaine arrest.

She was booked in Chatham County jail pending extradition to Florida.

FBI agents continued to investigate her allegations of being kidnapped.

But Monday afternoon, Florida officials said they would not extradite Ms. Bannister and reduced her felony warrant to an in-state warrant only, said Cpl. Tommy Tillman of the sheriff's office.

Each month, the jail typically releases about four or five people being held on non-felony charges because a state refuses to extradite them, Cpl. Tillman said.

"It's not uncommon for that to happen especially with probation violation warrants," he said. "It depends on if it's worth the time, effort and cost to pick them up."

Ms. Bannister was released from jail Monday and caught a Greyhound bus to Jacksonville. She bought the ticket under the same alias she initially gave the FBI.

In Florida, she presumably met up with Mr. Hubbard, Agent Kirkconnell said, and they again hit the road and headed north.

In the most recent chapter, Mr. Hubbard turned up early Wednesday morning in Dorchester County. An officer questioned him during a traffic stop and Mr. Hubbard hit the gas pedal.

He led officers on a chase in a pickup reported stolen Monday from a business on Crossgate Road, near the initial search.

After the second pursuit ended, he bolted and ran into woods.

So did Ms. Bannister. She was caught and "guess what, said `I am the victim of kidnapping,"' Agent Kirkconnell said.

A search for the man ensued, again in a dense, wooded area. Mr. Hubbard then allegedly stole a log truck from a nearby industrial area.

He continued to elude authorities Wednesday while Ms. Bannister was arrested and still crying kidnap.

"This is interesting because of (Bannister) ending up in the same place twice and trying to still make us believe she was kidnapped twice," Agent Kirkconnell said. "We're not that gullible."

Ms. Bannister is being held in the Dorchester County jail on suspicion of auto theft.

Authorities eventually identified Mr. Hubbard on Wednesday, but found no record yet that he is wanted for other crimes, Agent Kirkconnell said.

The log truck Mr. Hubbard allegedly stole was found Wednesday in north Charleston, a few blocks from a Greyhound bus station.

"This is one of the most baffling cases to try to figure out why this individual is running so hard," said Lt. Greg Long of Port Wentworth Police, the agency that initiated the case.

"This guy is running awfully hard for just being a car stealer."

"This is one of the most baffling cases to try to figure out why this individual is running so hard. This guy is running awfully hard for just being a car stealer."- Lt. Greg Long of Port Wentworth Police, the agency that initiated the case against Richard Hubbard