Authorities have captured a wanted Ohio man who they say raped and killed his girlfriend’s 13-month-old daughter before evading police capture for weeks.
Joshua Gurto, 37, was carrying a knife in his backpack when he was apprehended in Pennsylvania early Friday, almost three weeks after he allegedly murdered the baby and fled, according to local and federal authorities.
A law enforcement officer recognized Gurto in a wooded area near Pittsburgh about 2 a.m. and ordered the fugitive to the ground, Conneaut Police Chief Michael Colby said at a news conference Friday. Gurto did not put up a fight and identified himself before he was taken into custody.
He had a knife, a tent and maps of Pennsylvania and New Jersey inside his backpack, according to Pete Elliott, U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio.
The victim, Sereniti Jazzlyn-Sky Blankenship-Sutley, was “badly beaten” and suffered blunt force trauma to the head and lower body on Oct. 7, Elliott said. Sereniti was the daughter of Gurto’s girlfriend, according to authorities. All three had been living together at the time of the girl’s death.
“I feel very bad for Sereniti’s family. Nobody should have to lose a child to violence,” Elliott said Friday.
Last week, the girl’s mother, Kelsie Blankenship, told Channel 3 WKYC she was devastated over losing her daughter. “I’ve been bawling my eyes out all day,” she said. “She was a precious girl. She brought me a reason to live.”
The U.S. Marshal’s Service had issued a reward for Gurto’s capture earlier this month. The fugitive had been spotted on Oct. 13 at a convenience store in Girard, Pennsylvania, buying groceries and withdrawing cash from an ATM, authorities said. Police swarmed a Pittsburgh park Thursday afternoon after Gurto was sighted.
Authorities believe Gurto had been hitchhiking and camping out in the woods during the nearly three weeks he was on the lam. He will be brought back to Ohio in the new few days to face charges.
“We made Gurto’s world very, very small. He really had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide,” Elliott said.