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Warranted departure

Elbert Higginbotham and his wife Rebecca Ann Bess were missing for 17 days before being found. Now they are, again, missing.

The Jackson County Sheriff&

s Department obtained a warrant for the pair&

s arrest on methamphetamine charges Monday morning after Navajo County, Ariz., entered the warrant into a nationwide criminal database.

But after following news of their impending arrest in the media for several days, Higginbotham and Bess evidently decided not to stick around to see how the final chapter in their rollercoaster of a story would play out.

When two Jackson County Sheriff&

s deputies set out to arrest the pair on Monday, five days after their alleged crimes and ensuing warrants first made news, they were no longer to be found in Ashland.

&

Maybe they are heading back to Arizona to take care of this,&

one of the deputies said. A sheriff&

s deputy from Navajo County added, &

He said he wanted to face the music and not live on the run.&

They left Ashland on Sunday night, according to Ed Hill, whose daughter was stuck in the RV with Higginbotham and Bess for 17 days in the snowy mountains west of Glendale.

&

They got on the freeway and headed north,&

he said. &

They might be almost to Canada by now. Oregon doesn&

t want them and Arizona doesn&

t want them either. We gave them $38 for gas &

it&

s all we had.&

On Monday afternoon, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said, &

They&

re gone. They are someone else&

s issue at this point.&

Winters said he worked with Sheriff Gary Butler of Navajo County throughout last week in order to help the Arizona official get Higginbotham and Bess out of Southern Oregon and back to northern Arizona.

Butler said it took his office six days to get the warrant serviceable in other states because he had to first gain approval from the county attorney in his jurisdiction.

&

The county attorney and myself had to work determine if the cost of bringing them back here was worth what we would get out of it,&

he said on Monday afternoon. &

I feel bad it took so long to make a decision. My personal feeling is I would rather not have them back in my county, but we have to let the courts deal with them like any other [alleged offender].&

Butler said Winters, his counterpart in Jackson County, was &

desperate&

to help get Higginbotham and Bess out of his jurisdiction. &

If I was in his shoes I would have done the same thing,&

Butler said. &

We&

ve got enough problems without other states&

problems.&

Commander Kelly Clark, of Navajo County, said if Higginbotham and Bess return to Arizona they would likely do little jail time, even if convicted.

&

My experience tells me they would get probation,&

he said, noting Higginbotham was not caught with enough contraband to warrant a mandatory minimum prison sentence as is the law in Arizona. &

He has no other criminal record.&

Ed Hill, whose daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, spent 17 days stuck in the snow in the remote mountains west of Glendale with Higginbotham and Bess, said he is glad the media attention and his relationship with Higginbotham and Bess is behind him.

&

I&

m glad I only met him once,&

Hill said, noting that Higginbotham&

s alleged criminal past has cast a dark shadow over the rest of the family&

s harrowing and heroic adventure. &

I feel a lot better now that the stress is off the kids.&

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 226 or bplain@dailytidings.com.