A parolee driving a motor home with two of his children on board led police on an hours-long car chase across Los Angeles-area freeways and into Kern County on Tuesday before escaping on foot, authorities said.
Stephen Houk disappeared after his motor home got stuck in an almond orchard in a remote area just north of Bakersfield. His two children, who are 3 years old and 11 months old, were found safe, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
It's unclear exactly when he fled because the door he escaped from was out of sight, said Deputy Tracy Koerner.
Authorities said the 46-year-old man was wanted for evading, child abduction, child endangerment and weapons violations, and was involved in a dispute with his wife earlier Tuesday. Sheriff's officials said the man is registered in Oregon as a sex offender and believe he is armed.
The pursuit began shortly before 3 p.m., when Los Angeles police officers encountered the vehicle near Hollywood Boulevard and tried to pull it over, according to an LAPD spokesman.
The CHP took over the pursuit as the man took to the 170 and 5 freeways and headed northbound on the 5, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Tao, a public information officer for the agency's Southern Division.
The mother of the children was on the phone with the suspect as he was driving, trying to persuade him to pull over, Tao said.
At one point during the pursuit, the man pulled a curtain closed, so authorities could no longer see him.
Officers followed the man into the almond orchard but were forced to hang back when dust from the road and heavy brush obscured their vision. Eventually, the motor home got stuck on soggy ground, said Officer Robert Rodriguez, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.
Authorities didn't realize right away that he was stuck. When they did, they waited to approach — their helicopter was detecting a heat signature from the driver's seat.
Soon after, a little boy came out of the vehicle on his own.
"Turns out it was actually the little boy," Rodriguez said.
The boy told officers that his little sister was still inside, but his dad was not. Both children were reunited with their mother, Rodriguez said, and no one was injured.
Rodriguez said no weapons were found in the car.
10:50 p.m.: This article was updated with more details about the suspect's disappearance.
8:55 p.m.: This article was updated with information from a sheriff's spokesman.
8:30 p.m.: This article was updated with more information.
7:56 p.m.: This article was updated with information from authorities about the suspect.
7:14 p.m.: This article was updated after the motor home stopped.
4:43 p.m.: This article was updated when the pursuit entered Kern County.