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July 19, 2012 05:56 PM

Officials Believe Fugitive May Travel At Night

Parker, SD

Wednesday authorities thought they were hot on the trail of a fugitive from Omaha who is wanted for rape.

While the search for Oscar Herrera-Menjivar has been suspended authorities say he's still dangerous.

On Saturday, Herrera-Menjivar escaped from a van that carried him from Florida to Wyoming to pick up other inmates and then was on its way back to Nebraska. He jumped from the van during a fuel stop near Spencer, South Dakota early Saturday morning.

On Wednesday a farmer near Dolton, in northern Turner County, spotted the Omaha man near the railroad tracks on his land. Herrera-Menjivar asked him for water and directions and when the farmer was done talking to him he called investigators who searched for Herrera-Menjivar most of the day.

Right now Herrera-Menjivar could be anywhere in northern Turner County, authorities think he could have even traveled back to McCook County, but Joann Preheim who lives in the area knows how hard it might be to find him.

"These corn fields are, they are something else to try and find anything in," Preheim said.

Preheim runs a day care outside of Marion and says she's been taking precautions, like taking the keys out of her car and keeping her day care kids inside since she heard that the wanted fugitive was spotted in Turner County.

"I was kind of hoping to get up this morning and hear that he was caught," Preheim said.

But, Herrera-Menjivar, who according to court documents traveled to Florida in late May after a 14-year-old girl had reported that he raped her, continues to elude authorities.

"If you're familiar with cornfields, even with the drought, they are still tall and thick and they're not easy to get through. We did the best we could do thinking he was in there," Turner County Sheriff Byron Nogelmeier said.

Nogelmeier thought they had pinned the Omaha man down in a cornfield Wednesday but even with searchers on the ground, in the air and with the use of use of heat sensing equipment Herrera-Menjivar managed to slip away.

Authorities still believe Herrera-Menjivar is on foot because no cars have been reported stolen in the area.

"We don't know why he hasn't done that. Obviously if he gets in a vehicle, vehicles are somewhat easier to track, but we don't know why he hasn't done that," Nogelmeier said.

And searchers are asking property owners and homeowners in Turner and McCook Counties to keep a close eye on their land.

"With the heat he's probably resting during the day and traveling during the night, so we're asking the rural farmers and rural people to watch their tree groves, out buildings he may hunker down in during the day time just so he's not visible," Nogelmeier said.

Its advice Preheim will continue heeding.

"If I see any strangers out here I'll report it right away," Preheim said.

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