This article was originally published on goerie.com/news by Madeleine O’Neill on Oct. 28, 2017.
CONNEAUT, Ohio — Joshua D. Gurto, charged with raping and killing a 13-month-old girl earlier this month, is believed to have lived in the woods and hitchhiked during the two weeks he was a fugitive and evaded capture, authorities said Friday.
Gurto, 37, was carrying a tent in his backpack along with maps of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and a knife when police arrested him at about 1:40 a.m. Friday in the Pittsburgh suburb of Franklin Park, Conneaut Police Chief Michael Colby and U.S. Marshal Peter J. Elliott said at a news conference Friday morning.
“We believe he was in the woods the entire time,” Elliott said. “We believe he was in the woods last night. All indications are and were he was hitchhiking … and he was camping out in the woods.”
Elliott said a motorist from Buffalo picked Gurto up as a hitchhiker near Girard, in Erie County, on Oct. 13, the day a warrant was issued for his arrest. The two men were shown together in Girard in a photograph released by authorities.
The motorist, who was driving a gray Ford F-150, did not know Gurto was wanted and dropped him off about 20 miles north of Sewickley, outside Pittsburgh, when the truck broke down, Elliott said. Gurto had asked to head in the direction of Pittsburgh, Elliott said.
Investigators spoke with the motorist, who was identified using the license plate of the truck, and were able to narrow their search to the Pittsburgh area, Elliott said. The motorist will not face charges, they said.
“Nobody was willingly helping (Gurto),” Elliott said. “All that individual knew was that he picked up an individual named Joshua.”
In Franklin Park, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Gurto walked in front of a police car at Sheetz convenience store, and an officer identified him, Colby said.
“This officer immediately recognized Gurto,” Elliott said. Gurto “was wearing camouflage, a backpack. The officer went up to Gurto and asked him his name, (and) Gurto admitted his name was Joshua Gurto.”
Colby said Gurto was taken into custody by Franklin Park Patrolman Kevin Lestitian without incident. Elliott said authorities expect Gurto, who was at the Allegheny County Jail, to be returned to Ohio in three to five days.
Gurto is accused of aggravated murder and rape in the death of Sereniti JazzLyn-Sky Blankenship-Sutley, who died on Oct. 7 in Conneaut.
Conneaut police said Gurto was the boyfriend of Sereniti’s mother, and he was interviewed by investigators after Sereniti was found unresponsive at a residence at 530 Clark St. in Conneaut on the morning of Oct. 7. Police said they found a hysterical female, later identified as Sereniti’s mother, screaming, “Help my baby,” and holding the child when they arrived on scene.
Police did not offer any additional information about the crime Friday. Colby said investigators did not have enough evidence to hold Gurto for the crime when he was interviewed by police soon after Sereniti’s death.
The Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force searched for Gurto along with members of the Erie-based U.S. Marshals Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force, which looked for him in western Erie County.