BOUTON — Acting on a tip that the suspect in Monday’s double murder in Des Moines was in the Woodward area, officers from five law enforcement agencies captured the fugitive Tuesday night after a brief high-speed pursuit and a lengthy standoff on Iowa Highway 141 near Bouton.
Michael Wanchanic, 39, of Des Moines was taken into custody near the 136 mile marker of Iowa Highway 141 at 10:15 p.m., ending an incident that started about 6:15 when Wanchanic was spotted at the Casey’s store in Woodward by Woodward Police Chief Joe Cox, who recognized the suspect’s minivan from an alert issued Monday.
“I’m not sure what happened at the Casey’s store,” said Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard, “but a chase ensued and ended out here on Highway 141 west of the Woodward interchange.”
Wanchanic’s vehicle stalled on the highway, Leonard said, but authorities did not immediately approach it because he “had a handgun with him.”
Authorities closed the roadway in both directions, and a Dallas County Sheriff’s negotiator began to communicate with Wanchanic, who claimed to have a Taurus 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
In light of the firearm threat, an armored vehicle was brought to the scene by the Suburban Emergency Response Team (SERT), which includes Dallas County Sheriff’s Deputies and police officers from West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale, Ankeny, Altoona and Johnston.
“Thank God we didn’t need any of that,” Leonard said. The standoff lasted four hours. Leonard said Wanchanic “was indicating suicide and those type of things, but that didn’t happen.”
Tuesday night’s freezing temperatures and snow might have assisted the persuasive power of the negotiator.
“Eventually it came to a peaceful end,” Leonard said. “I think Mother Nature played a big part in it. The van wasn’t running, and he got cold, and he finally gave himself up.” Leonard called the conclusion of the incident “a very big relief.”
Jeremy Wuebker of Woodward said he arrived at the Casey’s moments after Wanchanic fled the scene, with law enforcement in hot pursuit.
“I got there just as the cops took off after him,” Wuebker said. “He jumped in the front door, the employees said, and kind of parked sideways. They said they thought he was going to come in and rob the store.”
Law enforcement agencies involved included the Woodward Police Department, Perry Police Department, Dallas County Sheriff’s office, Boone County Sheriff’s office and the Iowa State Patrol.
Wanchanic was wanted in connection with the murder of two of his roomates, 36-year-old Bryon Howard and 31-year-old Heather Belieu, who were found dead in their Des Moines home about 3 p.m. Monday.
Des Moines Police were summoned to the house at 3918 Center Street, which is located just east of 42nd Street and south of U.S. Interstate 235. Paramedics removed an infant and a toddler unharmed from the home.
According to reports, Wanchanic’s stepmother owned the house and lived there with the suspect, his stepbrother, Howard, Belieu and three of Belieu’s four children.
Des Moines Police have yet to comment on the manner of death of Howard and Belieu.
Wanchanic is currently being held in the Dallas County jail but will be turned over to Des Moines Police and taken to the Polk County jail.