Longtime fugitive held with no bond

2009-07-25T00:00:00Z Longtime fugitive held with no bondJOSHUA WOLFSON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
July 25, 2009 12:00 am  • 

CASPER - A Natrona County Circuit judge ordered one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives to be held without bond Friday, a day after his capture in the southern Big Horn Mountains.

Edward Eugene Harper asked to speak with an attorney before deciding whether to contest extradition to Mississippi, where he is wanted for allegedly molesting two girls.

Harper told Judge Steven Brown he had been living on and off for 15 years in the Broken Horn Creek area. The creek is in a remote region west of Midwest near the Natrona/Johnson county line.

Harper, who wore an eyepatch over his left eye and had shaggy gray hair and a beard at the Casper court hearing, listened quietly as the judge explained the proceedings. His appearance drew several reporters, an unusually high number of court deputies and even one protester.

FBI agents arrested the 63-year-old fugitive Thursday morning while he was tending sheep in Washakie County. His capture came after more than 14 years on the run.

In April 1994, Harper was indicted in DeSoto County, Miss., on charges of conspiracy to commit sexual battery, child fondling and sexual battery. Authorities suspect he molested two neighborhood girls, ages 3 and 8.

Harper failed to show up for a court hearing that fall. Later that year he was found in Utah and returned to Mississippi, said Natrona Country District Attorney Michael Blonigen. However, Harper disappeared again after posting a $20,000 bond.

The FBI believes Harper lived a nomadic lifestyle out of a 1979 truck and made money by doing odd jobs and herding sheep.

Harper would make trips to the general store in Kaycee - which authorities have described as the nearest town to his camp - to buy groceries and tobacco, said store owner Mary Cunningham.

"He was a friendly, pleasant guy," she said, adding that he was somewhat of a loner. "He was just one of those guys that works here."

Although he wore an eyepatch, he didn't draw much attention, according to Cunningham.

"We have a lot of characters out here, and we just respect everybody's privacy," she said.

The FBI put Harper on its 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list in November. He has also been featured on "America's Most Wanted," and Oprah Winfrey put him on her child predator watch list.

Federal authorities say they obtained a search warrant for Harper based on a tip generated from media attention.

According to the FBI's most wanted Web site, Harper reportedly subscribed to "Sovereign Citizen" ideology, which questions the legitimacy of most government in the United States. He gave no indication of such beliefs during his court appearance.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com.

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