Wanted child molester who faked his own death to avoid arrest found alive in Florida nearly three years later
A California-based wanted sex offender who faked his death in a bid to escape from authorities has been found alive in Florida nearly three years after he was presumed dead.
According to a press release by the Chico Police Department, 58-year-old Michael Patrick Manning was first arrested in September 2015 after the Chico Police Detective Bureau, with the assistance of Homeland Security Agents, served multiple search warrants related to an investigation of child sexual assaults that occurred in 2008 and 2009.
During the investigation, they found evidence and probable cause to support the allegations made against Manning by the victim, who claimed she had been sexually assaulted by him when she was between the ages of 12 and 14.
Manning was subsequently booked on four counts of section 288(a) of the California penal code which pertains to a person who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 14, and a single count of 288.3(a) which states that the victim is a "dependent person" who has a physical or mental impairment.
On that occasion, the 58-year-old posted bail and was released from Butte County Jail, only to be arrested less than a week later for possessing and manufacturing child pornography.
However, Manning once again managed to post bail and was released from jail. He was scheduled to be sentenced in Butte County Superior Court having pled no contest to felony violations of 288(a), two counts of 311.4 (c), and 311.11(c) — the latter two of which deal with crimes against the person involving sexual assault, and crimes against public decency and good morals.
He failed to appear in court, resulting in his bail being forfeited and a bench warrant being issued for his arrest. In October 2016, close to a year after he went missing, officers with the US Parks Service located a rental car leased to the 58-year-old near the Golden Gate Bridge bearing a suicide note authored by him.
But because his body was not located, suspicions remained. Investigators subsequently began to monitor the behavior and patterns of a close associate of Manning and observed what appeared to be sophisticated counter-surveillance measures.
The search for Manning continued and extended through Chico, Yuba City, Sacramento, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda, with Chico Police detectives requesting assistance from the Marshal's Service Fugitive Task Force and the FBI.
On numerous occasions, they came across residences, storage facilities, and vehicles associated with Manning's associate that appeared to have been hastily abandoned, with investigators believing they had narrowly missed apprehending him.
In April 2019, agents with the US Marshal's Service developed leads linking Manning's location to Florida. On May 3, at around 1:30 am, Monroe County Sheriff's Deputies in Key West, Florida, responded to a burglary alarm at a business on the Stock Island Marina and found a man living in an unlocked connex storage trailer adjacent to the property.
While he identified himself as William Wallace Littlejohn, his passport and US Navy ID card were determined to be fraudulent, and he was arrested. In Monroe County Jail, fingerprint analysis confirmed the man was Manning. He now remains in custody on no-bail warrants as he awaits extradition to California.