John Goodloe, on the lam for 18 months, was done in by an alert neighbor and a craving for a large, Meatlovers pizza.
The fugitive from Michigan, accused of running a major auto-theft ring there, was in federal custody today in the Pierce County Jail after his arrest early Wednesday in Bremerton. But it was no big police raid with sirens and flashing lights that led to Goodloe's capture. It was a tabloid television program, a neighbor with a sharp eye and a pizza-delivery man with a good memory.
The drama unfolded Sept. 21 when Goodloe was featured on the TV show "America's Most Wanted." Goodloe, 24, had been indicted in Detroit on charges he stole $500,000 in equipment and vehicles from the Ford Motor Co. He also was wanted on charges he stole a car while trying to escape from the FBI.
Thirteen people were indicted on the auto-theft charges, but only Goodloe and another man, Franklin Paulus, escaped arrest. The FBI suspected Paulus had gone to Russia but they had no idea what happened to Goodloe.
"It was a thorn in your butt that won't go away," said Jim Casey, an FBI agent in Detroit.
Goodloe apparently was living with his sister in Bremerton, said Casey. When the television show aired, the agent received a call from the brother of a neighbor who recognized Goodloe.
"We had heard rumors he was wanted by the law," said the man who requested anonymity. "We had a good relationship. He came to our family barbecue."
After the call, one of 150 the program generated, the FBI asked local police to go to the house where Goodloe reportedly was living. But he had fled, Casey said.
Meanwhile, the neighbor and his brother worked quietly with the FBI over the next two weeks to try to track down Goodloe. Tuesday night the neighbor spotted Goodloe outside his house talking to a friend and he overheard Goodloe say he planned to order a pizza.
The neighbor called the FBI and agents, armed with Goodloe's picture, went pizza parlor-shopping to find the store where Goodloe had placed his order. When they walked into the West Bremerton Pizza Hut delivery shop, driver Rodney Ewing immediately recognized the man in the photograph.
"At first I thought it was a joke until they showed their badges," said Ewing, who led agents to the house on the hill where he'd just delivered a large Meatlovers pizza to a man who'd refused to give his name when he ordered the pizza and appeared nervous when he'd opened the door.
Agents staked out the house and arrested Goodloe early Wednesday.
The neighbor, who may receive a reward, said he never worried he was in danger with all his sleuthing. "It's the way I do things," said the man, who also requested anonymity because he said he has helped police in investigations in the past. "I don't stand in your face, I don't ask questions. I just listen."
Over at the pizza parlor, co-workers are calling Ewing "agent man." But he shrugs off talk of heroism. "A person likes to help out any time he can," Ewing said. "I felt pretty good. I helped the FBI get this guy."