Escapee Caught While Getting Off Train

Times Staff Writers

An Orange County Jail escapee--the object of a two-county manhunt after he allegedly kidnaped an ex-girlfriend at knifepoint and led authorities on a high-speed car chase to northern San Diego County --was arrested without incident Monday as he got off an Amtrak train in Fullerton, officials said.

Dennis William Smith, 28, an unemployed barber from Placentia, was arrested by investigators at 12:10 p.m. as he stepped off the northbound San Diegan train.

‘We Put Investigators on the Train’

“Our investigators developed information that (Smith) was going to try to come back up here to Orange County, possibly by way of Amtrak,” Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Dick Olson said. “We put investigators on the train in Santa Ana and had people waiting at the station in Fullerton when he got off.”


Evelyn Odekirk, 46, whom San Diego sheriff’s deputies identified as Smith’s ex-girlfriend, was found when the car chase ended in Fallbrook at 3:20 a.m., and Smith fled from the woman’s late model Cadillac on foot.

Odekirk had been under guard by sheriff’s deputies in her San Clemente home until late Sunday, when she left to check into a San Juan Capistrano motel, from which she allegedly was kidnaped by Smith early Monday.

Odekirk was treated at Fallbrook Hospital for facial lacerations and minor stab wounds in the right hip and side, officials said. She was released into the protective custody of Orange County investigators and was being held at an undisclosed location.

San Diego officers said Smith, who had been serving a one-year sentence for a probation violation, also was awaiting a court appearance on charges of brandishing a weapon and assaulting Odekirk last month.


Smith was believed to have escaped from the Theo Lacy Jail in Orange on Saturday, sometime between 4 a.m. and an 11 a.m. head count at the minimum security facility, Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Bob Kemmis said. It was not clear how Smith had escaped, Kemmis said.

Odekirk was contacted early Saturday as someone known to Smith and told investigators she feared for her safety, Olson said. Sheriff’s deputies were assigned to the woman and remained with her until Sunday evening, when she checked into a motel in San Juan Capistrano with her 17-year-old son.

Motels Canvassed by Telephone

“We had no reason to believe the suspect would find the victim at the motel,” Kemmis said.


Kemmis said Smith apparently tracked her down successfully after making a telephone canvass of several motels in south Orange County. About 2:30 a.m. Monday, Odekirk was awakened by a knock on the motel room door, followed by a man’s voice identifying himself as police officer, authorities said. Odekirk opened the door, and Smith allegedly forced his way in with a drawn pen knife.

Smith hustled Odekirk out of the room and into her car while her unidentified son pretended to be asleep in the room, Olson said.

Investigators said that after the ensuing car chase, Smith apparently made his way to an Amtrak station --possibly in Oceanside--and took a northbound train.