Fugitive nabbed in Gates

Published 12:14 pm Saturday, January 10, 2009

GATESVILLE – A Virginia native wanted on a long list of felonies, including a homicide in Tennessee, saw his four-plus year flight from justice come to an end here Friday afternoon.

Aided by Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb, the U.S. Marshal’s Service took Abrey Wayne Fortner into custody. Fortner, 31, has a last known address of 2505 Gilmerton Road #1, Chesapeake, VA.

The arrest, made without incident in the parking lot of Family Foods in Gates, came after a federal law enforcement surveillance team placed Fortner at a relative’s residence in Gates County.

“He’s been on the run for over four years,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Martin Stidham. “We felt all along that he had a lot of people helping him avoid arrest.”

Stidham added that Fortner had bounced back and forth between Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

After learning that Fortner had relatives living in Gates County, Stidham worked closely with Sheriff Webb and Gates County Probation and Parole Officer David Brown. Employing the use of Capital Area Fugitive Task Force, of which he is a member, Stidham set up surveillance teams in North Carolina and Virginia (Fortner was born in Portsmouth and raised in Chesapeake).

On Friday, that team spotted Fortner leaving a residence on the Johnny Harrell Road in the Gates community. He got into a vehicle, driven by a man believed to be Fortner’s cousin, and the two made their way to the Family Foods convenience store, located on NC 37 in Gates.

Stidham said all those involved in the case were aware that Fortner had previously stated he would not go back to prison.

“We considered him armed and dangerous,” Stidham said. “We determined that he would take whatever actions he deemed necessary not to go back to prison.”

Upon making the arrest, a loaded .25 caliber handgun was found in Fortner’s possession.

Stidham said charges are pending against the person driving the vehicle in which Fortner was a passenger. That person’s name was not released.

Fortner was processed and fingerprinted at the Gates County Sheriff’s Office. He was taken by U.S. Marshals to Chesapeake, Va. for confinement. From there, Stidham said he felt sure that Tennessee officials would come and pick-up Fortner since the most serious charge is a homicide that occurred last year in Sullivan County.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says Fortner entered an apartment belonging to Arthur Theodore Burchard Jr., 40 on September 5, 2008 and stabbed his victim several times.

Fortner is also wanted in Chesapeake, Va. for an Oct. 14, 2004 crime that involved felonious burglary and malicious wounding.

Additionally, Fortner has outstanding felony warrants lodged against him in Smithfield, Va. There he is wanted for assault with a weapon and abduction in a case that dates back to May 30, 2005.

For his part in the case, Sheriff Webb said he was thankful for the work of the U.S. Marshal’s Service and for Probation Officer Brown.

“Thanks to a lot of hard work and patience on their part, a dangerous criminal was taken off the street and placed in jail where he cannot inflict harm on innocent people,” Webb said.