Bland Was Working at a McDonald's During Hunt

Times Staff Writer

Murder suspect Warren James Bland was working at a McDonald's restaurant in the Pacific Beach area of the city while he was the subject of a massive manhunt by Southern California law enforcement agencies.

San Bernardino County sheriff's investigators were at the fast-food restaurant on Garnet Avenue on Wednesday afternoon questioning the manager and employees about the man known to them as "Jim Thad."

Police said that James Thaddeus Sterling is one of six aliases allegedly used by Bland.

Sheriff's investigators ordered the McDonald's employees not to talk to a reporter about Bland.

Moved by Deputies

Bland, 50, was taken from a San Diego hospital by Riverside County sheriff's deputies at 7 p.m. Wednesday night and booked into Riverside County General Hospital's jail ward at 9 p.m., sheriff's spokesman Al Dixon said. Riverside authorities have charged Bland with the murder of 7-year-old Phoebe Ho of South Pasadena.

Earlier, doctors at the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center said that Bland was in fair condition.

Dixon would not say whether Riverside deputies have already questioned Bland or will question him today. He is being held on a no-bail warrant.

San Bernardino County authorities also want to question Bland in the slaying of Wendy Osborn, 14, of Placentia. Both girls were tortured and sexually assaulted before their bodies were dumped in remote areas of the two counties.

According to one San Diego man who befriended Bland, the murder suspect was already living and working in San Diego at the time Wendy Osborn was abducted in Orange County.

Brock McCue, manager of an adjacent Winchell's Donut House, said Bland was hired Jan. 12 to work in the McDonald's kitchen several evenings a week. McCue, who knew Bland for about a month, saw him as "an old guy down on his luck."

"I got to know him, but I really didn't know anything about him until yesterday (Tuesday), when every cop in the world descended on McDonald's and my place to ask us about Jim Thad. He's been hanging around our parking lot for about a month. . . . He told us that he was from Alaska and that his wife had taken him to the cleaners when they got divorced," McCue said.

Bland occasionally slept in a blue 1970 Toyota that he is suspected of stealing from a Long Beach woman and which he parked in the doughnut shop's parking lot, McCue said. The shop and restaurant where Bland worked are about a block from the taco shop where he was captured by San Diego police Monday night.

Bland was shot once in the buttocks when he ran from a detective.

McCue said investigators asked him several questions about Bland. They were particularly interested in whether Bland was friendly with young girls.

"He talked to my help but never did anything wrong," McCue said. "He was basically a gentleman, friendly, polite and kept to himself."

However, McCue added that Bland also "asked a lot of questions about things that are not legal."

He declined to elaborate, saying that police had instructed him "not to discuss these illegal things" with the media.

Meanwhile, a San Diego police spokesman said Wednesday that detectives are checking reports that Bland may have committed some armed robberies. Police recovered a .32-caliber revolver from the vehicle that Bland was driving.

Sgt. Gordon Redding said nothing has developed from this information and emphasized that "at this point, we don't have any evidence to indicate that Mr. Bland committed any criminal acts in San Diego."

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