DAYTON -- A man recently arrested for burglary, assault and theft was apparently living in the crawl space of a house owned by the Community Bible Church.
While investigating a burglary report Feb. 9 Columbia County deputies said they found the space beneath the kitchen at 306 E. Clay St. equipped with lights, computers, food, clothing and bedding.
As deputies searched the crawl space, their activities flushed the suspect out of an access space under the stairs, officials said.
As he left the house, he pushed Pastor Dwayne Ramsey out of the way and ran down an alley, officials said.
Ramsey followed him across Second Street and was able to tell deputies he was hiding in a backyard in the 200 block of East Spring Street.
Deputies apprehended the man, who said his name was Neil Neilson, after finding him hiding in an outside basement entrance. A fingerprint check showed he was Daniel L. Baxter, 34.
Baxter made his first court appearance Friday afternoon, where bail was set at $250,000. He is charged with first-degree burglary, residential burglary and fourth-degree assault.
While authorities say the investigation is ongoing, they say Baxter is likely the person who has eluded police for months while squatting in vacant houses around Dayton.
Baxter has a record of similar offenses in Montana, and Pennsylvania and possibly California, according to the Columbia County prosecutor's office. Records show he has misdemeanor trespass convictions in Montana.
Baxter's capture came after officers responded to a report of a break-in at the church for the second time that week. The first break-in occurred between the afternoon of Feb. 5 and the early morning of Feb. 6. Food was taken and the back door had been left unlocked.
The church owns the church building, and two adjacent buildings, and all three had been entered, according to Ramsey.
Ramsey asked the Columbia County Sheriff's office to set up a camera inside the church parsonage at 203 S. Second St., which is used as a school, after a teacher arrived Feb. 9 and noticed an open rear window, a coffee pot plugged in and computers and television unplugged.
The deputy who responded found items in the attic of the parsonage that matched items found at several other burglaries and called another deputy to help search the other buildings on the church property, including a house at 306 Clay St.
Arraignment for Baxter is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday in Columbia County Superior Court.
Carrie Chicken can be reached at email@example.com or 522-5289.