July 20, 2001 -- "Cowboy Mike," a man wanted in connection with the disappearances of four women, the shooting of another and two rapes, was captured today after a one-hour chase that ended when a police dog dragged the fugitive to the bank of the Snake River.
Michael Braae, 41, had been the focus of a manhunt ranging across Idaho, Washington and Oregon that intensified over the last week when he was spotted at least three times — at a garage sale in Randle, Wash.; in Moscow, Idaho, on Monday; and in LaGrande, Ore., on Wednesday.
A motorist caught sight of Braae sleeping in his car at a truck stop on Interstate 84 early this morning, but the suspect woke up as police arrived to arrest him and the chase was on, said to Capt. LeRoy Cordes of the Payette, Idaho, County Sheriff's Office.
Braae tried to elude police by getting on and off the highway, but the officers stayed in pursuit, Cordes said.
Spike strips were spread on the roadway in Braae's path, and one of the tires on his car blew out. He abandoned the car on a bridge over the Snake River, and jumped into the water.
Police went after him in boats, armed with shotguns loaded with beanbags, but nearly an hour later they still had not managed to collar him, Cordes said.
That was when the "bite dog" went to work, grabbing the suspect and dragging him to shore, where police were waiting to take him into custody, Cordes said.
Braae shot at police several times during the chase, but no one was hit, Cordes said. However, when he was caught he did not have a weapon, he added.
"He must have lost it somewhere along the way," he said.
Wanted for Four Years
Braae goes by the nickname "Cowboy," and according to Lt. Dan Garcia of the Yakima County Sheriff's Department, is "not from anywhere, he's from here and there." He was being held by the Malheur, Ore., County Sheriff's Department, Cordes said.
Idaho state police, Gem and Payette, Idaho, county sheriffs' deputies, Oregon state police, Ontario, Ore., police and Malheur County sheriff's deputies all took part in the chase, Cordes said.
Braae was the last person seen with Lori Jones, 44, of Lacey, Wash., who was found dead on July 8. Lacey police Lt. Tom Nelson said Jones died of "homicidal injuries," but would not elaborate.
Police also want to question him about the death of Valina Marie Larson, who was last seen with him on Sept. 30, 1997 in Clackamas County, Ore., before her bones were found in January 1998.
He is also a suspect in the disappearance of Susan Ault of Cathlamet, Wash., who has not been seen since she was observed arguing with him on June 25.
Among the other crimes police say they have linked to Braae is the rape of a woman in Yakima, Wash., on July 13. The woman, believed to be one of his former girlfriends, was found dumped in an apple orchard with a gunshot wound to the head on July 14, and is still in critical condition in a Yakima hospital.
Braae has been wanted since March 1997, when he allegedly walked away from a work detail at Thurston County jail in Olympia, Wash., where he was serving time for a drunken driving conviction. ABC affiliates KATU and KOMO contributed to this report.