A multiple-murder suspect in Tennessee has been taken into custody after seven days on the run, officials said.
Kirby Wallace was arrested at about 10:15 a.m. Friday in a wooded area between Stewart and Montgomery counties by two of the many law enforcement officials who spent a week searching for the accused killer.
“This man has gripped the community,” Sandra Brandon, public information officer for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, told reporters Friday. “I grew up in Woodlawn and I know what the community has felt for the last week. It’s been horrible. But a sigh of relief was heard today from law enforcement in both Montgomery and Stewart counties."
The search for Wallace, 53, began on Sept. 23, when he allegedly attacked married couple Teddy and Brenda Smith and set fire to their home in Stewart County, killing Brenda and seriously injuring Teddy, police said.
Four days later, Wallace allegedly tied up and robbed an elderly woman in her home in nearby Montgomery County, authorities said.
Wallace is also accused of shooting and killing a man whose truck he allegedly stole and crashed after several miles Monday, cops said.
Law enforcement officials scoured the area for signs of Wallace, establishing a perimeter around an area they believed he would be in while urging the community to remain alert during the search.
“Continue being vigilant of your surroundings,” the Stewart County Sheriff’s office said.
Deputies followed school buses as they picked up and dropped off children in the Indian Mound area, residents were reminded to keep their doors, windows and vehicles locked, and to check on family members living in the areas being checked.
“If you are unable to reach them please call 911 and we can conduct a welfare check on your family member,” the Stewart County Sheriff’s office said.
On Friday morning, Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew and Cpl. Stacey Bostwick were searching ahead of a "hot zone" picked up by a bloodhound when they spotted two hunting sheds in a wooded area between Stewart and Montgomery counties.
It was there they noticed someone moving about 40 yards away.
“He basically walked right to us,” Belew said.
After confirming the man walking near them was Wallace, Belew said he waited until he about 25 yards away to identify himself as a sheriff and, with his rifle and Bostwick’s firearm pointed at him, ordered Wallace to walk toward him with his hands to the side.
"Right before he got to me, he stepped behind a tree," Belew said. "He came out to the left side of the tree with his hands around his waist."
Belew said he “anticipated a firefight,” but Wallace ultimately put his hands back up and went down to his knees.
“We cuffed him up together,” Belew said.
He noted that a loaded firearm was found in Wallace’s waistband, saying it was “fortunate we didn’t wind up in a shootout” and that he had come “about as close as you want to get” to pulling the trigger of his own firearm.
Authorities released photos of Wallace as he was arrested and sitting in a police car. He appeared dirty and was wearing camouflage clothing. Medics evaluated him at the scene and determined him to be “operating within normal parameters,” police said.
At the time of his arrest, Wallace had warrants out against him for charges that include first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated arson, robbery, aggravated kidnapping and burglary, authorities said.
He will likely face additional charges, officials said.
It was not immediately clear what would come of the $20,000 reward offered for his capture — $2,500 of which was provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and remaining $17,500 raised by others in the community — as law enforcement attributed Wallace’s arrest to "sheer luck." Officials said the several agencies offering the reward would determine what to do with the funds.