Death of dog walker, 83, and resident of remote cabin possibly linked to escaped Idaho inmate
Death of dog walker, 83, and resident of remote cabin possibly linked to escaped Idaho inmate

Authorities are investigating whether the deaths of an 83-year-old man who was walking his dogs and a 72-year-old man who lived in a remote cabin were linked to the escape of A member of a pro-white prison gang in Idaho and an accomplice after an ambush at a Boise hospital.

The escaped inmate, Skyler Mead, and an accomplice, a recently released inmate named Nicholas Umphenor — both members of the Aryan Knights gang — were arrested in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Thursday afternoon. Their arrests came 36 hours after Umfenor was shot and wounded two correctional officers in Idaho as they prepared to return Mead to the jail from a hospital, police said.

Investigators said Thursday that while on the run, Mead and Umphenor may be responsible for the deaths of two men, one in Nez Perce County and the other in Clearwater County, both in northern Idaho, about seven hours away. , where they were arrested.

Coroners on Friday identified the victim in Nez Perce County as James L. Mauney, 83, of Juliet, who was reported missing Wednesday when he left his home in his silver Chrysler Pacifica minivan to pick up his two dogs, a white Jack Russell terrier and a brown Chesapeake Bay retriever — to a walking path.

The victim in Clearwater County was Gerald Don Henderson, 72, who was found dead outside his remote cabin near Orofino.

“I cannot fathom the senseless killing of this beautiful man,” Henderson’s partner, Ron Thompson, told The Associated Press on Friday. “Such a senseless, senseless thing.”

Thompson said he and Henderson met Umphenor about a decade ago through another “neighborhood kid” they took in. Umfenour, then in his late teens, didn’t get along with his father, Thompson said, and he stayed at the cabin with Henderson and Thompson for about a month.

Life with Umphenor was frightening, Thompson said, because he would “always talk about shooting people.” The couple eventually kicked him out.

Thompson and Henderson met through a dating site in 2006 and have been life partners ever since, although Thompson moved out of the cabin in 2015 and moved to Seattle because he grew tired of the isolated area. Henderson, who was 17 years older than Thompson, had difficulty sharing publicly that they were a couple in conservative Idaho, and the two never married.

“It wasn’t unknown that we were a couple, but we just never talked about it,” he said.

They dreamed of living together again, he said.

About a month ago, Umphenor — fresh out of prison, where he had served burglary and gun convictions — trudged through deep snow to spend an hour at the cabin with Henderson, drinking coffee and talking. Henderson felt uneasy about the visit and wasn’t sure why Umphenor had come, Thompson said.

On Wednesday, when Thompson learned that Umphenor was connected to Mead’s escape from the hospital, he became alarmed and called the sheriff’s office to request that deputies check on Henderson.

Police found him dead outside his home, where they also found what may have been the shackles of the escaped inmate, Clearwater County Coroner Dennis Fuller said Friday.

Fuller described Thompson as “a kind old man who took in some bad guys and tried to help them.”

Mead and Umphenor appeared in court Friday, along with a woman who was driving one of the two vehicles they were traveling in when they were arrested, a minivan and a pickup truck, Twin Falls police Lt. Terrance Tuesson said. Mead and Umfenor were being held on $2 million bail.

The woman, identified as Tonya Huber, was charged with harboring a fugitive, eluding police and drug possession. Idaho Fifth Judicial District Judge Ben Harmer set her bail at $500,000 after a prosecutor said she drove 100 mph through Twin Falls neighborhoods while trying to elude police Thursday.

None of the three entered pleas.

Mead, 31, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2017 for shooting a sheriff’s sergeant during a high-speed chase. Umphenour was released from the same prison — the Idaho Maximum Security Institution in Kuna, south of Boise — in January. The two were sometimes housed together, were both members of the Aryan Knights prison gang and had mutual friends in and out of prison, officials said.

The attack on Idaho Department of Corrections officers came just after 2 a.m. Wednesday in the St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center ambulance as they prepared to return Mead to prison. He had been taken to the hospital earlier in the night because he had injured himself, officials said.

After the ambush, one officer shot by Umfenor is in critical but stable condition, police said, while the second officer who was wounded has serious but non-life-threatening injuries. A third officer also suffered non-life-threatening injuries when a responding officer — mistakenly believing the shooter was still in the emergency room and seeing a gunman near the entrance — opened fire.

Jail director Josh Tewalt said Thursday that one guard had been released from the hospital and the condition of the other two was stable and improving.

The department is reviewing its policies and practices in light of the escape, he said. The attack came in the middle wave of gun violence in hospitals and medical centers struggling to adapt to the growing threats.

“We’re directing every resource we have to try to figure out exactly how they planned it,” Tewalt said.

Mead was recently held in a type of solitary confinement called administrative segregation because officials considered him a serious security risk, Tewalt said.

The Aryan Knights prison gang formed in the mid-1990s in Idaho. In court documents, federal prosecutors described him as a “scourge” on the state’s prison system.

“The hate-fueled gang engages in many types of criminal activity and casts a shadow of intimidation, addiction and violence over prison life,” the prosecutors write.


Johnson reported from Seattle and Thiessen from Anchorage, Alaska.

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