York man wanted in assault on ex-girlfriend, her children in jail after manhunt

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Thomas Eugene Mitchell

— A York man wanted in the brutal beating of his ex-girlfriend and her three children was like a “ghost” as he eluded police, dwelling in several vacant houses in a month-long manhunt that ended when he surrendered last weekend in Rock Hill, authorities say.

After a nearly two-hour chase, Thomas Eugene Mitchell, 36, was arrested late Sunday and charged with three counts of third-degree assault and battery, one count of criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, one count of burglary, one count of receiving stolen goods and one count of entry onto another's land after notice, according to booking information from the York County Detention Center. He was being held in jail Monday without bond.

Mitchell will also likely face charges in connection with eluding police, said York Police Lt. Rich Caddell.

On Dec. 27, police say Mitchell hid under the bed of his ex-girlfriend’s Bishop Street home, lunged at her as she stepped into the bedroom and beat her, leaving her with severe eye injuries. The victim, 36, told police that after Mitchell forced her to the floor and punched her in the face, he grabbed her 15-year-old daughter and began choking her when the girl tried calling police.

Mitchell fled, police said, but not before pushing the woman’s son, 9, into a wall, injuring his lip. He grabbed the woman’s youngest daughter, 7, by her arm and “slung her into the wall,” according to a York Police report.

Mitchell had been harassing the victim since last October, sending her text messages and asking to see her and her children. She refused.

Earlier this month, the victim told The Herald that she and Mitchell dated for more than three years before separating.

The woman said Mitchell had never been “violent like that,” adding that she feared for her and her children's safety while Mitchell was in hiding. They do not have any children together.

“I have a big sense of relief” about Mitchell’s arrest, the victim told The Herald on Monday. “I’m definitely relieved and my kids, they’re relieved, and they feel that they’re a little safer now. We can get some rest now.”

A month later, she is still unsure why Mitchell attacked her so severely other than her calling police to report his repeated harassment and trespassing on her property, she said.

Now, she can only see clearly out of one eye. Her left eye only captures blurred images, she said.

Before the Dec. 27 assault, Mitchell was wanted in connection with a burglary on King’s Mountain Street in which he and another suspect allegedly stole a propane tank and lawn and garden equipment from a home, Caddell said.

Throughout January, police received reports from landlords that a suspect matching Mitchell’s description had been spotted in vacant houses, Caddell said. York residents often called police if they spotted Mitchell, typically after sunset.

“We think he would get in these houses, lay low during the day,” Caddell said. “We never had sightings of him during the day, always at night.”

Police “ran him with dogs several times” over the past month, Caddell said, but could never catch him.

“Usually, if someone stays in York, we catch them within a week,” Caddell said. “This guy was like a ghost. He would pop up and disappear. It’s unlike any other (fugitive) that I have dealt with.”

Every time the victim learned police were looking for Mitchell, she thought “that was it ... it would be over,” she said. “It was just one letdown after the other. We stayed prayed up around my way and everybody tried to keep us in good spirits and keep us safe.”

At about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, 15 officers took to the streets and chased Mitchell again. This time, he fled to Rock Hill, where he turned himself in at the Rock Hill Police Department. Police say they have yet to confirm if anyone helped Mitchell avoid arrest but if they uncover evidence that proves otherwise, that person will face accessory charges.

“We would vigorously pursue that,” Caddell said. “We put a lot of effort into this.”

The victim and her children are “bouncing back,” she said. They hope to begin counseling sessions soon.

“Thank God this situation wasn’t worse and hopefully he can get some help,” the victim said, adding that she feels sorry for Mitchell’s preteen-aged daughter who won’t be able to see her father. “Nobody wins in this.”

Jonathan McFadden 803-329-4082

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