Ohio fugitive accused of sexually assaulting minor found hiding in Florida forest

OCALA, Fla. — A northeastern Ohio man accused of sexually assaulting a minor was arrested in Florida on Tuesday after police found him hiding in a van in the Ocala National Forest, authorities said.

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Matthew Lee Rutter, 29, of Conneaut, was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Marion County, according to Marion County Sheriff’s Office online booking records.

Rutter was wanted by the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office and the Conneaut Police Department for one count of felony rape and three felony counts of gross sexual imposition, according to Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court records.

According to the Ashtabula Star Beacon, Rutter fled the area in July 2022, after he was accused of sexually assaulting a minor from Jan. 11, 2017, to Jan. 10, 2019.

Investigators with the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force believed Rutter had traveled south, WJW-TV reported. Witnesses reported seeing him in Pennsylvania and West Virginia until authorities tracked him to Florida, the Star Beacon reported.

Members of the Florida-Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force found Rutter hiding in an Astro van in the Ocala National Forest, according to the newspaper.

He was taken into custody without incident.

“We will never stop pursuing those that are accused of harming children, and this is another example of the nationwide reach of the U.S Marshals Service,” U.S. Marshals spokesperson Pete Elliott said in a statement. “No matter where these dangerous fugitives run to, we will find them.”

Ashtabula County Sheriff William Niemi said getting criminals off the streets is critical to keeping the county’s citizens safe.

“As sheriff, I will continue to do everything I can and use any resources available to me to protect the citizens of Ashtabula County,” Williams told the Star Beacon in a statement.

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