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Suspect in Tennessee death may have ties to other cases

Hitchhiker accused of killing woman who gave him a ride

From Ed Payne

McCauley, shown in an undated photo, was arrested in Pennsylvania.
Crime, Law and Justice

(CNN) -- A man wanted in the death of an Oklahoma woman whose body was found in Tennessee last week was arrested Wednesday in northwestern Pennsylvania and may have ties to other crimes, Erie County District Attorney Brad Foulk said.

Bobby Joe McCauley, 30, is accused of killing 29-year-old Amanda Bateman. He was brought late Wednesday before Erie County District Judge James Dwyer on charges of first-degree murder and being a fugitive from justice. He is being held on a $1 million cash bond.

"Mr. McCauley is a person of interest -- to us, the Pennsylvania State Police, and potentially to the FBI -- in other investigations," Foulk said.

Henderson County, Tennessee, authorities issued a warrant for McCauley's arrest after finding Bateman's body March 23 in Natchez Trace State Park off Interstate 40 in western Tennessee, according to Jennifer Johnson with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in Nashville.

Authorities were pointed to McCauley after a phone call he made to a family member on Bateman's cell phone.

"McCauley called his mother and said he had killed someone," Johnson said.

Bateman had earlier called her own family, saying she had given a ride to a stranger in Memphis, Tennessee. She was en route from Chandler, Oklahoma, to visit her parents in Franklin, Tennessee -- about 200 miles northeast of Memphis -- but never arrived.

Her car later turned up near Dallas, Texas, with McCauley's fingerprints in the car, Johnson said. McCauley is a diagnosed schizophrenic and has not been on his medicine for the condition, Johnson said.

McCauley was arrested about 3 p.m. Wednesday at a Harbor Creek, Pennsylvania, truck stop, just northeast of Erie along Interstate 90, following a tip called into an FBI field office in the state.

According to Foulk, McCauley was captured without incident by state and local law enforcement officers, along with FBI agents, as he stood at a pay phone. Foulk said the suspect has been cooperative with investigators and told them he knew why they were there.

"He indicated he was hitchhiking and was just passing through Erie County," said Foulk.

Bateman's mother, Ann Phillips, said her daughter made it a practice to give rides to strangers.

"She picked up hitchhikers. She felt that was her way of serving God, by helping people," Phillips said. "We really don't approve of it. We felt it was too risky for her to do, but she felt that it was a good thing."

David Phillips, her father, said Bateman picked up hitchhikers so she could share her Christian faith.

"She has done that all over the country and this is the first problem case, but she -- probably even knowing that something like this would have happened -- she'd still do it ... and died for people's sins."

The McCauley case bears some similarities to a string of unsolved murders across at least six states over the last three years.

In February 2004, investigators from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi met at Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation headquarters to compare notes on at least seven murder cases, but considered several others.

The female victims in the earlier cases range in age from 19 to 47 and had a striking number of similarities:

  • Most were last seen at truck stops along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma.
  • Most of the victims' bodies were found dumped along highways.
  • Most had a history of prostitution or were known prostitutes.
  • Most of the victims' bodies were found naked, with no other belongings in the area.
  • Some were sexually assaulted.
  • In the McCauley case, Bateman was traveling along I-40 in western Tennessee when she allegedly picked McCauley up. The interstate runs through Natchez Trace State Park, where her body was found.

    Authorities have not released information on how Bateman was killed or the condition of her body.

    Asked if there was a connection between McCauley and the unsolved cases, Johnson said: "Anything that fits this M.O. (manner of operating) will be looked at, certainly. We can't rule anything out."

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