MOUNT MORRIS – Quick action by Mount Morris Police Chief Jason White led to the capture Wednesday of a Pennsylvania fugitive and the return home of the 14-year-old girl who was with him.
White said he believes Donald S. Guthrie, 38, of Jersey City, Pa., a convicted sex offender and bank robbery suspect, was intending to rob the Union Savings Bank in Mount Morris early Wednesday afternoon.
The veteran policeman was on routine patrol about 1:30 p.m. when he spotted Guthrie, wearing a hooded sweatshirt despite the 90-degree weather, headed into the bank at Wesley Avenue and Main Street.
“He was acting very suspiciously in front of the bank,” White said. “When he saw me, he turned around and went the other way.”
When White stopped Guthrie and questioned him, Guthrie gave a false name.
Guthrie was taken into custody after White determined his true identity and found he was wanted for robbing the First National Bank in Hughesville, Pa., on Aug. 27, and also because Pennsylvania authorities believed the girl, Karley Bletz, Punxsutawney, Pa., was with him.
White said he then found Bletz a few blocks away in Guthrie’s car.
The car had been repainted only a few days before, White said, and had fake Indiana license plates.
Bletz’s blond hair had been dyed brown in an attempt to conceal her identity.
Through interviews, White said he determined that Bletz had willingly gone with Guthrie, and that the two were headed for Salt Lake City to begin a life together.
Bletz had been missing since Aug. 28 and her family had posted her photo and description on flyers and on the Internet in an effort to find her.
According to an account on a Pennsylvania TV station’s website, Guthrie had been contacting Bletz for some time, even sending her text messages of a sexual nature.
White said the teen called her grandparents from the Mount Morris police station, and family members picked her up Thursday afternoon.
“Her grandparents were very grateful that she had been located,” he said.
Guthrie has been classified as a sex offender since a Pennsylvania conviction for indecent assault in 1999.
He is being held in the Ogle County Jail awaiting extradition to Lycoming County, Pa., where Hughesville is located.
Authorities there are grateful for White’s sharp observations and quick action.
“Chief White did excellent police work,” Hughesville Police Chief Jason Gill said Friday. “If not for his recognizing that Guthrie was acting suspiciously and then taking action, it’s believed he [Guthrie] could have and probably would have committed another crime, and the female might not have been recovered.”
Gill said police had been looking for Guthrie since he failed to appear in Lycoming County Court on Aug. 31 for a hearing on charges that he sent sexually explicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl in 2008, 2009 and 2011, and because they believed Bletz was with him.
A warrant for his arrest on the bank robbery charges was issued later, Gill said.
Guthrie is accused of taking $1,823 from the Hughesville bank, he said.