NEAR EMERY, SD -
Ever since hearing about the escape of Oscar Herrera-Menjivar, residents living between Spencer and Emery have been on alert.
The inmate was being transported back to the Omaha area by a private company after being arrested in Florida. They stopped for gas near Spencer early Saturday morning and the 31-year old fugitive hasn't been seen since. Court documents say Herrera-Menjivar raped a 14-year-old girl at the end of May and has been on the run ever since.
South Dakota farmers said it was a startling phone call to receive about 4:30 a.m. Saturday. And by 5:00 a.m., half a dozen troopers were on their farms searching high and low for the fugitive.
The news of the escape along I-90 has residents taking extra precautions.
Cody Hanssen lives about four miles from the truck stop where the fugitive escaped. Hanssen says most people didn't lock their vehicles before this.
“Before people knew about it, he could have had his choice of what he wanted to take," Hanssen said.
The Highway Patrol's early Saturday morning searches of all area farm buildings and tractors came up empty. Amanda Stahl and her husband just moved to the area three months ago and were bringing home their new baby when they heard the news.
"We're only three miles from that gas station where he escaped so we're pretty nervous to come home even," Stahl said.
In addition to searching some of the out-buildings on area farms, the Highway Patrol also had planes in the sky looking for him.
"You'd think coming from Sioux Falls out to the country, you'd be a little more safe, but that doesn't necessarily prove to be true," Stahl said.
"There's always a chance that he could be hiding around here with all the corn that's around. He's got plenty of hiding spots and old buildings and stuff," Hanssen said.
Residents say they'll breathe easier once the fugitive is caught, but until then, they’ll keep their eyes open for any unusual activity.
Some residents say they’ll leave their keys in their vehicles because they’d rather the fugitive take their car and leave than come into the house.
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