After eluding law enforcement for days, David Allen Hamilton Jr. took refuge in the home of a 78-year-old woman, an invalid being cared for by a friend of his, police in Bucks County said Wednesday.
He hid in the basement of the home in Solebury Township, police said, emerging late Tuesday to steal a car belonging to the homeowner's friend.
These brazen actions catalyzed an already intense hunt for Hamilton, a Trevose resident accused of raping two young girls over five years, according to police.
"We believe he is dangerous," Solebury Township Police Chief Dominick Bellizzie said. "We are making this our top priority."
Hamilton, 47, was being pursued by officers from Solebury, his native Lower Southampton Township, and the U.S. Marshals Service, the latter of which offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
Authorities said they believed Hamilton was camping out on the banks of the Delaware River, somewhere in the area of New Hope and Lambertville, N.J.
As they continued their search, officers were questioning Meredith Custodio, 58, the live-in caretaker who Bellizzie said "gave him cover" and allowed him to hide in the home of her client.
Custodio was charged Wednesday with impeding apprehension, conspiracy, and related offenses. She remained in custody in Bucks County, unable to post 10 percent of her $150,000 bail, court records show.
In an affidavit of probable cause filed in Custodio's arrest, investigators said she admitted early Wednesday that she had previously been in a relationship with Hamilton for about a year. He arrived Friday at the home where she was staying, asking for shelter.
She told police she let him stay in the basement, but gave him the keys to the stolen car, a Toyota Avalon, on Tuesday, demanding that he leave, according to the affidavit.
Investigators issued a warrant for Hamilton's arrest last week, accusing him of sexually assaulting two minors, who are sisters, according to Lower Southampton Township Police Chief John Krimmel Jr. Krimmel said Hamilton is not related to the victims, but declined to comment on how he met them.
After the warrant was issued, Hamilton fled Trevose, stopping at a Target store in Oxford Valley, police said. There, he purchased a white tent with a red top and other supplies that he has apparently used throughout the multiday manhunt.
Hamilton spent 20 years in the Army as a cavalry scout, according to Krimmel. He served two tours of duty in Iraq, gaining skills that investigators believe have helped him elude them.
He was last seen on Friday by two New Hope police officers. A violent struggle ensued, in which Hamilton wrestled one officer to the ground and attempted to steal his firearm.
Hamilton ultimately fled but was spotted over the weekend by an archer in a wooded area near Stoney Hill Road in Solebury Township, according to police. A search of the wooded area Monday by police yielded no results.
But a break in the case came Wednesday, when the owner of the Toyota called Solebury Township police to report the vehicle stolen.
Investigators visited the home on Bobwhite Drive in the Fox Run Preserve community, a quiet, pastoral subdivision. They had been there on Saturday to interview Custodio at the insistence of police in Lower Southampton, who had received information that Custodio knew Hamilton.
At the time, Bellizzie said, Custodio denied any knowledge of the fugitive's whereabouts. But it was likely that he had been lying in wait during their conversation, sequestered in the basement apartment Custodio stayed in at the home.
A different caretaker answered the door at the home Wednesday afternoon. She declined to identify herself or speak with a reporter.
Meanwhile, neighbors were stunned by the reports that a violent fugitive had been living among them for days.
Some said the 78-year-old who owns the home is a cancer patient who has relied on live-in caretakers for the last few years. The owner of the stolen car is a friend of the woman's, they said, one to whom she has granted power of attorney.
The friend had left the car parked in her driveway, allegedly entrusting it to Custodio.
"This is just horrible," said Inge McKernan, who lives next door to the home where Hamilton was allegedly hiding. "You worry about it, about having someone like that staying so close to your home."
McKernan said the neighborhood is "quiet and peaceful," mostly occupied by retirees and senior citizens.
"I just hope they catch him," she added. "This is so upsetting."