Search continues for robbery suspect
HUMBOLDT — Another extensive search in and near the Neosho River for Iolan Aaron Hutton, suspected in a Wednesday morning armed robbery in Iola, came up empty Thursday and Friday.
Allen County Sheriff Bryan Murphy detailed the ongoing investigation, one day after the suspect was last spotted grasping a log as he floated down the Neosho while being chased by law enforcement.
Thursday and Friday’s searches included scouring the river banks several miles downstream from Humboldt, using boats from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and Chanute Fire Department. One was equipped with side scan sonar capabilities to detect submerged objects. They spotted several logs and other debris, but no body, Murphy said.
The boats were on the water until about 8:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, a Kansas Highway Patrol helicopter flew overhead to check for any signs of activity in the wilderness surrounding the river. A drone was utilized as well.
With those searches unsuccessful, deputies will continue to search rural areas near the river, “every doghouse, outhouse, birdhouse we can find,” Murphy said, in case the suspect is still in hiding.
At the same time, investigators are probing Hutton’s activities before, during and after Wednesday’s robbery, in which a masked man matching his description robbed at gunpoint a cashier at Advance America, a payday loan business at 523 N. State St. in Iola. The gunman took off with an undisclosed amount of cash, stealing the employee’s cell phone and vehicle, a dark gray Subaru Forester.
Witnesses in Humboldt have spoken to officers about seeing who they thought was Hutton earlier in the morning before the robbery near a relative’s house, and then again after the robbery was reported.
The man was riding a bicycle earlier in the day, they said, and was on foot shortly after noon.
The suspect fled the residential area as law enforcement arrived, heading west toward the river.
He was spotted about an hour later by officers jumping into the water, tossing a backpack onto the river bank as he did.
The backpack contained cash, a loaded handgun, clothing and a skull mask.
The suspect eventually found a log to hold onto as the river’s current pulled him downstream. Teams of officers on either side of the river kept pace for several hours, slogging their way through thick brush and muddy terrain, exacerbated by 90-degree temperatures and high humidity.
Search dogs also were a part of the effort.
The officers lost sight of the suspect shortly after the overhead helicopter had to leave the scene to refuel.
He has not been seen since.
Schools in Chanute were ordered locked down Thursday morning when witnesses spotted somebody who looked like Hutton on the west side of town, but that search turned up empty as well.
The lockdown was lifted late in the morning.
Law enforcement personnel and Humboldt officials gather Thursday at Neosho River Park prior to launching another extensive search of the river for robbery suspect Aaron Hutton.
SEVERAL questions still must be pieced together, Murphy noted, such as whether somebody gave Hutton a ride to Iola from Humboldt, or otherwise had contact with him afterward.
“He had to get to Iola somehow,” Murphy said.
Adding to the intrigue, the stolen Subaru, with license tag 987 KZS, remains missing.
Murphy urged residents to remain vigilant, and keep their homes, vehicles and outbuildings locked and secured.
Hutton, 35, is of slender build, at about 5-11 and 135 pounds, with dark hair. He was last spotted wearing boxer shorts and black socks. He had been wearing clothing when he jumped in the water, but slowly disrobed as he tired, officers noted.
While officers recovered a firearm, they said residents should still consider the suspect armed and dangerous. They should not approach him, if they see anything or anybody suspicious, but instead should call 911. Anyone with information regarding Hutton’s whereabouts is encouraged to call 365-4960 or 365-1400.