Fugitive broke into, spent night in Norman church

Clemmons: Sheriff’s Office wants ‘peaceful end’ to situation

* Authorities seek public’s help in locative wanted man
* Call in tips to Crime Stoppers at 910-997-5454 or Sheriff’s Office 910-895-3232

* Previous coverage

By Kevin Spradlin

After escaping the custody of a Richmond County sheriff’s deputy at about 10 a.m. Friday, John Adam Rillo remains a fugitive from justice more than five days later.

Rillo, 40, is a white male. His last known address is 2013 Cemetery Road in Candor.

Authorities from two states, including officers with the sheriff’s offices in Richmond and Montgomery counties, as well as the Rockingham Police Department, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the North Carolina Department of Corrections and four bloodhounds and their handlers, participated in an exhaustive ground and air search Tuesday within a 5-mile radius of his parents’  home before the thunderstorms spread over the area.

Individual units included the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team, the Rockingham Police Department Special Response Team and the Hamlet Fire and Rescue Department. Additional support was provided by Mountain Creek Volunteer Fire Department, the town of Norman and Richmond County Emergency Management Services.

John Adam Rillo

John Adam Rillo

Last Friday morning, a deputy had arrived at the home of Rillo’s parents looking for information on Rillo’s whereabouts — a federal warrant authorized Rillo’s arrest — when it was discovered that Rillo, 40, was there. There was no previous intelligence available that indicated Rillo might be at that location.

Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge told The Pee Dee Post at about 10:20 a.m. Saturday that Rillo was handcuffed “and jumped into a dog lot” after being found at the home of his parents. He was handcuffed and arrested on an outstanding warrant. The deputy was escorting Rillo to the patrol car to be transported to Richmond County Jail when Rillo made his move.

“The deputy could not get control of him due to the dogs all jumping around the deputy,” Gulledge said.

By the time the deputy had freed himself from the dogs, Rillo “had hit the thick woods.”

Authorities released a statement Wednesday afternoon noting that Rillo “has known to be armed in the past and possibly has possession of a ballistic vest.”

In addition, police said Rillo has lived in Montgomery and Randolph counties, as well as Richmond County, and could have contacts throughout the area.

Rillo is wanted for being a felon in possession of a firearm, manufacturing methamphetamines, resisting a public officer, breaking and entering into a place of worship and larceny that resulted in injury to personal property.

The charge of breaking into a church is new. Gulledge said Wednesday afternoon that Rillo is suspected of unlawfully entering Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church on Clayton Carriker Road, just south of his parents’ Cemetery Road home in Norman, on Saturday night.

Gulledge said it appeared Rillo entered the unlocked property spent the night, as a crib mattress was removed from a crib and placed on the floor. In addition, a single handcuff was found at the scene. Gulledge said it appeared Rillo had used some 3-in-1 oil found at the church and used it to slip off the cuff. It’s not clear where the second cuff is. The break-in was discovered at about 9 a.m. Saturday, according to a police report. Rillo has remained a ghost since.

Evon Craven, 83, of Ellerbe, arrived at the church to prepare things at 9 a.m. Prior to that, Craven said his niece had arrived to set items out to prepare for communion. But the key to the cabinet was missing, Craven said, so his niece returned home.

“He was in there when she was there,” Craven said. “We didn’t know it at the time. He must’ve been (hidden).”

It was evident that Rillo had left the premises by the time he arrived, Craven said. Craven said Rillo stole food and drinks from the church refrigerator, including the grape juice intended for communion that morning. Rillo also made coffee in the church basement and ate some old cookies, Craven said, but didn’t steal anything of consequence.

Craven said Rillo also might have taken some clothing from a box of donated clothing intended for the less fortunate, as the contents of the clothing box, kept stored in the Sunday School room, was strewn about the room.

Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. emphasized the importance of the cooperation among participating law enforcement agencies.

“I truly appreciate … them being willing to come and help us apprehend an individual running from justice,” Clemmons said.

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