Sex abuse suspect caught after trying to flee on sailboat

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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A manhunt that started Friday in Vancouver ended on the Columbia River when officers checking sturgeon anglers arrested a man on suspicion of multiple sexual offenses.

Fish and wildlife officers pulled up to a sailboat west of St. Helens, Ore., and arrested Thomas Leroy Webb, who was wanted on suspicion of first-degree rape (two counts), first-degree sodomy (two counts), and first-degree sex abuse (two counts).

The police report indicated the 48-year-old Keizer, Ore., man was attempting to flee the area on the 27-foot sailboat.

The hunt started when Keizer Police Detective Ben Howden traveled to Vancouver to arrest Webb, who had been indicted for allegedly abusing a female he knew was a juvenile.

Howden learned that Webb had left Vancouver and gone to St. Helens, where he may have departed in a 27-foot sailboat. St. Helens police checked a local dock, confirmed Webb had left in the sailboat and provided a description to Oregon State Police.

Fish & Wildlife Division troopers Chris Boeholt and Adam Shimer were on routine boat patrol, checking sturgeon anglers on the Columbia River in the St. Helens area.

Armed with the boat’s description, the troopers spotted the craft just north of Kalama, and pulled along side. The troopers identified the sailboat operator as Webb and took him into custody on the felony warrant.

Webb was transported back to St. Helens in the state patrol boat. A trooper sailed Webb’s boat back to the St. Helens dock.

Webb was lodged in the Columbia County Jail, pending transport back to Marion County for a future court appearance on the charges.