Tri-state fugitives arrested in Barry County

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Couple wanted for multiple burglaries, auto thefts

A Golden man and Eureka Springs, Ark., woman were arrested Wednesday when a nearly two-week search for the couple, wanted for a tri-state string of burglaries and auto thefts, ended with a short manhunt north of Shell Knob.

Christopher Blevins, 32, of Golden, and Mercedes Splichal, 24, of Eureka Springs, Ark., are each charged with first degree tampering with a motor vehicle and stealing of a firearm.

According to a probable cause statement filed by Det. Rob Evenson, with the Barry County Sheriff's Office, on June 6 between the hours of 6:40 and 7:24 p.m., Blevins and Splichal dumped a Jeep Wrangler in the parking lot of Harps in Seligman after stealing the vehicle in Arkansas. The couple then allegedly stole a 2008 Ford F-350, belonging to the Benton Washington Regional Water Authority, from the parking lot at Harps. At the time of the theft, there was a Ruger Security Six .357 magnum revolver inside the vehicle.

Blevins and Splichal were allegedly caught on Harps camera leaving the Jeep, entering the store, then leaving and taking the Ford.

On Wednesday, Evenson and Det. Doug Henry, also with the Barry County Sheriff's Office, responded to the Shell Knob area in response to a sighting of Blevins. The caller said Blevins walked to the door of a home down a dead end lane, possibly looking for a vehicle to steal or to burglarize the home. When the homeowners answered the door, he told them that his vehicle had broke down and he needed help. He was allegedly carrying a rifle in his hands and had a revolver in a holster on his hip. The owners said they could not help him, and Blevins walked away down the lane, allowing the homeowners to call 911.

While three Barry County detectives were on scene with the original callers, a second sighting was reported a short distance down the road. The caller on this sighting reported that the same man was walking around an empty house, checking the doors, looking as if he were trying to get into the house. Detectives and a Missouri Highway Patrol Sergeant responded immediately. 

"Deputy Henry and I went down the road past the second sighting and immediately noticed a light blue van backing of a driveway," Evenson said in his statement. "We pulled behind the van and I exited the patrol car and made contact with the driver, identified as Chris Blevins. Blevins stated that his name was Travis Meeks, which I knew to be false."

Blevins was arrested at gunpoint and read his rights. He allegedly stated the van, believed to be at least the fifth stolen vehicle in the couple's spree, did not belong to him, and he was carrying the Ruger revolver, fully loaded, from the Ford pickup in a holster on his right hip. He also had a .44 magnum rifle in the front seat of the van next to him, and he was allegedly in possession of suspected methamphetamine in his pocket upon arrest.

Blevins then allegedly told the detectives Splichal was hiding in the Piney Creek area, saying he was suppose to steal another vehicle, then go back to pick her up. Conservation Agent Daniel Shores and Missouri State Trooper Michael Eden went to the location and took Splichal into custody. She was armed with a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle at the time of her arrest.

Blevins said the Benton Washington Regional Water Authority truck was in Brownsville, Tenn., parked across from a KFC. Brownsville police have located the vehicle.

Blevins also allegedly gave deputies information about a a pickup he had been driving earlier in the day, when he was able to outrun a Barry County deputy. That truck, stolen in Madison County, Tenn., was located over a mile down a forest service trail, heavily damaged.

Blevins and Splichal are both being held in the Barry County jail on $30,000, cash-only bonds. Both have been arraigned, and disposition hearings are scheduled for Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Robert Foulke.

Both Blevins and Splichal have pending cases in the 39th Circuit Court, as well. Blevins has two cases, and the second involves Splichal, too. His first case, from May 2016, has charges of second-degree burglary and theft, as he allegedly stole a four-wheeler and tools from a home in Golden, allegedly selling the four-wheeler and pawning the tools in Eagle Rock and Eureka Springs, Ark.

In Blevins' second case, from December 2016 in Stone County, he and Splichal were allegedly in possession of a pickup stolen out of Berryville, Ark. when the steering went out in a Walmart parking lot, leading them to steal a Toyota pickup. In that case, Splichal is charged with tampering with a motor vehicle, and Blevins is charged with two counts of receiving stolen property.

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