CHICO – A California man accused of faking his own death to avoid a jail sentence for child molestation and child pornography has been arrested in Florida, police say.
Michael Patrick Manning, 58, of Chico, was arrested May 3 in Monroe County, Florida.
Manning was out on bail when he failed to show up at a sentencing hearing on September 6, 2016, after pleading no contest.
Chico police say officers with the U.S. National Park Service found a rental car under Manning’s name abandoned near the Golden Gate Bridge a month later. While searching the car they found a suicide note in Manning’s handwriting, but a body was never recovered.
“Investigators began to monitor the behavior and patterns of a close associate of Manning and observed what appeared to be sophisticated counter surveillance measures,” according to a Chico Police Dept. news release. “Residences, storage facilities, and vehicles tied to Manning’s associate were frequently found full of personal property, and hastily abandoned.”
Agents from the U.S. Marshals Service said they thought they just missed Manning on multiple occasions.
In April, investigators were already developing leads tying Manning to Florida.
Then, on May 3, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office got a call about a burglary alarm at the Stock Island Marina in Key West. Deputies found a man living in an unlocked storage trailer nearby.
The man identified himself as William Wallace Littlejohn and had a passport and U.S. Navy ID card that later turned out to be fake.
Deputies booked the man at the Monroe County Jail, where fingerprints confirmed that he was actually Michael Manning, according to police.
Manning is being held without bail while awaiting extradition to California.