UPDATE: Couple missing after placing Craigslist ad; man in custody

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ATLANTA (CNN) — The suspect sought in connection with the disappearance of a Marietta, Georgia, couple who had posted a Craigslist ad turned himself in Monday morning, the Telfair County Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page.

Authorities said earlier that Ronnie “Jay” Adrian Towns, 28, was wanted on charges of giving false statements and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception.

Elrey “Bud” Runion, 69, and his wife, June, 66, placed an ad looking for a 1966 Mustang on the advertisements website and went missing after contacting a car seller on Craigslist.

They drove to the South Georgia town of McRae from the Atlanta suburb of Marietta on Thursday to meet someone who responded to the ad, relatives said.

No one has heard from them since.

“He was excited about the car. He had one when he got back from Vietnam,” daughter Stephanie Bishop told CNN affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Relatives filed a missing persons report after the couple failed to show up to baby-sit their grandchildren the next day.

‘Last known communications’

Towns, 28, was the “last known communications” with Runion, said Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson.

Towns turned himself in just before noon Monday. He “is currently in custody and no further details are available at this time. Details will be posted as they become available,” the Facebook page for the sheriff’s office said.

The couple made the trip to look at the car, and once Runion got to Telfair County, the suspect communicated with him, according to the sheriff. He did not say who called whom.

McRae is about 180 miles from Marietta.

The suspect lied to investigators at an earlier interview, authorities said.

Two warrants

For days, authorities have searched for the couple using helicopters and watercraft, and will continue to do so, Steverson said.

“I am eternally grateful for the prayers that have been lifted up, the encouraging words, complete strangers who have reached out, we are so thankful for that,” said Josh Patterson, the couple’s son-in-law.

“Bud is a veteran. He and June are great people; they give so much, they are selfless.”

The Runions were last seen driving a champagne 2003 GMC Envoy. According to a Facebook page pleading for help finding the couple, June Runion has short, brown hair and green eyes. She was possibly wearing beige slacks and a plaid shirt.

Bud Runion is 5 feet 9 inches with a medium build, has blue eyes and sports a bald head and thick mustache. He was wearing a corduroy collared shirt, blue canvas jacket and jeans, and he was known to wear baseball caps and cowboy hats.

Site has history

Though the overwhelming majority of Craigslist transactions occur without incident, the site has a history of being co-opted by criminals.

Just in recent years, there have been numerous such instances. In Henderson, Nevada, police said a man placing an ad in July met three men at a park, who took him to a vacant house, tied him up, beat and robbed him, then escaped in his car.

In March, a San Jose, California, woman responding to an ad for a cellular phone was allegedly kidnapped at gunpoint by two men who drove her to an ATM and demanded her passcode, police told a newspaper.

In May 2013, a Maine teenager drove to Portland to sell his BMW sedan to a 29-year-old who had responded to his Craigslist ad. The teen was allegedly forced into his own trunk and driven to Delaware, according to media reports and an FBI affidavit.

CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.

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3 comments

  • fern

    Survived Vietnam, but couldn’t survive this sick society and Craigslist. DONT give anyone your address. DONT go meet someone with money – let them know you will NOT be bringing money. Tell them that you WILL be letting others know where you are meeting and who they are. etc… Trust is NOT a positive attribute in this society.

  • Arnie Maynes

    So sad how could anyone be so heartless these are two innocent people that did nothing to deserve what we all dread has happened to them .