CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – An Arizona man accused of having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl was arrested after he spent more than three months hiding in the desert, authorities said Thursday.
David Whitaker, 42, of Marana, was arrested Monday on suspicion of attempted sexual conduct with a minor, three counts of sexual conduct with a minor, indecent exposure and sexual abuse, The Arizona Republic reported.
Investigators said Whitaker survived for 107 days on fish he caught in a nearby canal, as well as by hunting javelina and rabbit, KTVK reported. Deputies said Whitaker is a known survivalist, the television station reported.
Roughing it in Arizona’s deserts requires skills that cannot be learned overnight, wilderness survival expert Tom McElroy told the television station.
“There’s incredible areas for shelter, there’s caves,” McElroy told KTVK. “There’s an abundant amount of wildlife, and mostly there’s just a lot of cactuses that provide you with different fruits.”
According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Whitaker allegedly had sexual contact with the teen on Nov. 28, 2020, KNXV reported. Deputies said the victim later said that the abuse was ongoing.
With deputies en route to Whitaker’s home, he left his residence and walked into the desert armed with a handgun, according to the Republic. Deputies continued to search the desert for Whitaker but were unsuccessful, the newspaper reported.
In early March a detective was tipped off about Whitaker’s possible location, KTVK reported. Deputies located Whitaker near Red Rock and established a perimeter around the homemade shack he had built, the television station reported.
Deputies were assisted by Border Patrol agents and state police, KSAZ reported.
“Law enforcement truly is a team effort,” Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said in a statement. “We are hopeful his arrest brings the victim and the victim’s family some peace of mind.”
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