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Suspect in wild motor home pursuit is arrested in Barstow, police say

Suspect in wild motor home pursuit is arrested in Barstow, police say
Stephen Houk, 46, was arrested Thursday afternoon, police say.

A sex offender who led police on a wild pursuit from Los Angeles to Kern County in a motor home with his two children was arrested Thursday, authorities said.

Stephen Houk was detained in Barstow around 4:30 p.m., more than 100 miles from where police last saw him, according to Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

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He was found hiding in a rail car and taken into custody without incident, the Sheriff's Department said on Twitter.

Houk was wanted on suspicion of evading, child abduction, child endangerment and weapons violations after he allegedly pointed a revolver at his wife during a dispute Tuesday morning in Santa Clarita, authorities said.

Capt. Eddie Hernandez of the Sheriff's Department's Major Crimes Bureau said Houk had been physically violent toward his wife and children in the past.

After the incident in Santa Clarita, Houk, 46, fled to Los Angeles, where his motor home was spotted by police officers in Hollywood around 3 p.m. Tuesday. Police soon learned his two children, a 3-year-old son and 11-month old daughter, were in the vehicle.

Houk then led California Highway Patrol officers on a chase north to Kern County. His wife made contact with him by phone during the chase, and pleaded with him to pull over, a CHP spokesman said Tuesday.

The nearly four-hour pursuit ended when Houk drove into an almond orchard north of Bakersfield on Tuesday evening, forcing officers to hang back when dust from the road and heavy brush obscured their vision.

Eventually, the motor home got stuck on soggy ground. Houk fled on foot, undetected by police. His 3-year-old son eventually emerged from the motor home unharmed, and police soon found an 11-year-old girl inside the vehicle.

The children were not physically harmed.

"The kids didn't seem visually hurt, but we did have them medically cleared and given back to the mom," Officer Robert Rodriguez, a spokesman for the CHP in Bakersfield, said Wednesday. "The little 3-year-old didn't know what was going on, and I'm glad it was that way because it was a horrible experience for them to go through."

Houk was believed to be armed during the chase, but it was not immediately clear whether he had a weapon when he was captured, Nishida said.

Sheriff's officials said Houk is wanted in Oregon, where he is registered as a sex offender. In 2002, he was convicted of sodomy and sexual abuse, according to records from the Oregon Judicial Department.

He had been on the run for almost two years before Tuesday's chase and had been living in the motor home with his wife and children as they left Oregon, police said. Houk had driven through Oregon and Arizona in recent days, and the family had been camping near Malibu and Calabasas the night before the chase, Hernandez said.

Times staff writer Melissa Etehad contributed to this report.

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Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.

UPDATES:

6:45 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and background about the pursuit.

This article was originally published at 5:35 p.m.

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