An escaped murder suspect with little to lose made a desperate move before dawn Thursday, breaking into a house at knifepoint and holding a husband, wife and son hostage for hours in a bathroom.
But this family wasn't going down without a fight. After Rafael McCloud tied up the 30-year-old husband, he broke loose and fought with McCloud, who stabbed him in the back of his shoulder, Vicksburg Police Capt. Sandra Williams said. McCloud tied the man up again, but his 24-year-old wife persuaded McCloud to let her leave the bathroom. She returned with a family handgun and shot the intruder, Williams said. Then she cut loose her husband and he shot McCloud multiple times with the same gun.
The man was released from a local hospital after treatment. His wife and their five-year-old son weren't seriously injured.
It was the end to a manhunt that began March 2 when McCloud — who could have faced the death penalty if convicted in the 2015 killing — used a homemade shank to get the jump on an officer and escaped the county jail.
"This is absolutely not the outcome we had all hoped for," Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. "We had wanted to capture him and have him stand before the judge. But he chose this, and I am so personally relieved that this family was not injured more than they were and they were able to protect themselves."
The man told police that McCloud confronted him about 4 a.m. as he and his son entered their attached garage, which Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong said McCloud entered through a side door. The family finally ran outside and flagged down a passing driver who called 911 about 7 a.m.
Warren County Deputy Coroner Kelda Bailess said authorities found McCloud dead, slumped over the bathtub. His body was sent to the state crime lab for autopsy.
Authorities didn't name the family members.
McCloud previously indicted for rape, murder
Police knew of no connection between McCloud and the family, who live on a street atop a steep ridge north of downtown Vicksburg. One side of the ridge looks out toward the Mississippi River, while the other looks onto part of the Vicksburg National Military Park, marking the site of a key Civil War battle.
McCloud escaped the Warren County Jail on March 2 when he overcame an officer and forced the officer to give up keys, radio, pants and jacket, authorities said. Once McCloud went out a door, he was free because the century-old red brick jail in downtown Vicksburg has no perimeter fence.
Officials combed the historic town for days, interviewing family members and friends of McCloud and poking through abandoned buildings. The found the pants McCloud took on the site of an abandoned hospital — the same place where authorities found Sharen Wilson — the woman McCloud was accused of killing in January 2015. McCloud was indicted on murder and rape charges in her death and had been jailed since June 29. Prosecutors could have sought the death penalty in the case.
The jail, the former hospital and the single-story home are all within a roughly two-kilometre radius.
"I was kind of surprised he was still in the area," neighbor Mike Keck said. "I thought he would've tried to get as far away as possible. I'm glad to see it's finally over. We can be at ease now."
Armstrong said McCloud was found wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes and said police are investigating whether someone aided him while he was on the lam.