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Missing-rescued-fugitive couple captured

A couple wanted on drug charges after their rescue from the mountains of southwest Oregon were arrested Tuesday in Washington state, authorities said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A couple wanted on drug charges after their rescue from the mountains of southwest Oregon was arrested Tuesday in Washington state, authorities said.

Elbert and Becky Higginbotham were stopped without incident near the coastal city of Long Beach, Wash., according to a Pacific County dispatcher.

The Higginbothams were in the same beige motor home where they spent 17 snowbound days earlier this month. Their March 21 rescue attracted national attention. But the joy of the rescue quickly turned sour when Arizona authorities recognized the Higginbothams as a couple that had been caught with methamphetamine and a shotgun, reneged on a promise to cooperate with investigators and disappeared.

Navajo County Sheriff Gary Butler said he'd arranged with authorities in Southern Oregon to arrest the Higginbothams and have them sent back to Arizona, where warrants were issued last week.

But the couple went back on the lam Sunday. Butler said the couple likely faced probation on the drug charges but could spend time in jail for felony flight.

Authorities said the Higginbothams left Ashland on Sunday night, but they don't know which way they headed.

"My guess is north," said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters.

He turned out to be right.

The Higginbothams came to Oregon to visit Becky's son and family in Ashland. Planning a weekend trip to the Oregon coast, they left on March 4 but got lost on the back roads of the Coast Range and got stuck in the snow.

Ezekiel Hill, 23, of Ashland said he helped the Higginbothams load their vehicle Sunday and discussed which way they might head. "They said they were going to California," Hill said.

His sister, Marlo Hill-Stivers, is married to Peter Stivers, Becky Higginbotham's son. The Stivers and their two children were in the snowbound recreational vehicle with the Higginbothams. The Stivers' decision to hike for help led to the rescue.

Ed Hill, Ezekiel's father, told the Ashland Daily Tidings that the couple started out on Interstate 5. "They got on the freeway and headed north," he said. "They might be almost to Canada by now.

"We gave them $38 for gas; it's all we had."