Residents living in and around Montgomery County had their lives interrupted last Tuesday during a 17-hour manhunt for a suspect with an AK-47 that was charged with the first-degree murder of five people.
Before being captured early Wednesday morning, Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino was wanted for a fifth murder after he shot 49-year-old Randy Nordman in Montgomery County. Nordman was shot in his home located on Tree Farm Road, between Danville and New Florence. The home is just east of Highway 19.
Prior to the murder, Serrano-Vitorino’s truck was found abandoned nearby on I-70.
With law enforcement officials uncertain where the fugitive was, nearby school districts didn’t take any chances.
Montgomery County was on an immediate lockdown with Missouri State Troopers placed at each school facility.
Closer to home, both Community R-VI and Wellsville-Middletown School Districts made decisions to lockdown schools and cancel all afternoon bus service.
“We were notified of a possible shooting incident in the New Florence area,” said Community R-VI Superintendent Cheryl Mack in an official statement. “Our buildings are always locked but we immediately notified staff to double check all doors and windows. Staff were instructed to keep all students inside the building and that all P.E. classes and recess would be held inside, security cameras were monitored, and access to the builiding was limited. Once we verified the information with law enforcement a School Messenger call was launched. The situation was monitored with the help of our SRO and we determined the best course of action was to dismiss students directly to parents and guardians. A second School Messenger call was launched.”
Wellsville-Middletown Superintendent Pete Nasir also made decisions to provide safety for students in his district.
“Early Tuesday morning our school was informed that a multiple-murder suspect had been sighted on foot approximately 15 miles south of our community,” Superintendent Nasir said in an official statement.
“Though our school is now and has been for three years, a controlled-access campus, we immediately alerted all staff to terminate any and all outside activities (such as recess, PE or green-house classes, etc.) until further notice and to be extra-vigilant concerning all visitors and deliveries. If we didn’t recognize them we didn’t let them in. At the end of the school day, since there had been no visual or physical contact with the suspect since the initial sighting, our school chose to not send students home on the bus but rather require parents to make arrangements to have their students picked up. We did this for two reasons. First, a bus full of students would be too many potential targets in one enclosed space and secondly, under the circumstances, we didn’t want to drop any students off at an empty house…which sometimes happens due to parental work schedules. In addition, we made and communicated plans to not have school on Wednesday if the suspect had not been taken into custody by the time buses were to start their daily routes. Fortunately we did not need to institute those plans. Our school maintained regular contact with local law enforcement and passed on important information to our parents and community through our normal mass communication procedures (school-reach, social media, mass-media). Local law enforcement was constantly visible on and around our campus.”
Van-Far, which was a little farther in distance from where the Montgomery County murder occurred, decided to continue bus service in the afternoon.
“We learned of an armed fugitive being sought in Montgomery County through law enforcement on Tuesday morning and reacted immediately, knowing the developing situation was in our region, but not our immediate area,” Superintendent Dr. Hunter said in an official statement.
“As our buildings are secured already, we kept students inside, notified the school community through SchoolReach and monitored the situation throughout the day. Our School Resource Officer was visible and monitored our campus buildings throughout the day. Tuesday afternoon, before dismissal, we notified the school community of dismissal options and provided an update. At dismissal, we gave parents an option to pickup. That evening, school events were canceled as the fugitive had not been captured. The EMO Conference Quiz Bowl Meet at Elsberry was postponed as many EMO Conference schools in the Region were similarly affected that evening. Tuesday evening, we notified our public of tentative plans for Wednesday. Early Wednesday, the suspect was captured. We notified our school community that morning, before buses were dispersed, that we would operate as normal.”
Serrano-Vitorino, a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally, was apprehended without incident early Wednesday morning after being found hiding in a ditch near Interstate 70 and Highway 19.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol placed the suspect in the Montgomery County Jail and placed on a 24-hour hold in connection with Nordman’s death.
He also was being held on a $2 million bond for the four murders discovered in a house next door to Serrano-Vitorino’s residence in Kansas City, Kansas.
He was formally charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the Kansas City, Kansas killings, according to Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman. He could get life in prison or a death sentence. He attempted suicide while in custody after cutting himself with a safety razor.
He was transported to the hospital and was in stable condition.
Montgomery County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Carroz will prosecute Nordman’s murder as Serrano-Vitorino was charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and burglary.
State of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office said it will assist Carroz with the proceedings. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement in which the agency said Serrano-Vitorino had been deported from the U.S. in April 2004 and illegally reentered “on an unknown date.”
-The Associated Press contributed information for this story.
Below is the previous updates to the story as the situation unfolded throughout the week and was published on our website www.vandalialeader.com
Update: Captured murder suspect attempts suicide
Update on Thursday, March 10:
Update from Wednesday morning:
Update: The murder suspect was captured, lying on the ground in a ditch between the outer road and the highway in the area of I-70 and Highway 19, this according to multiple media reports. He reportedly was carrying a rifle when he was found.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said Vitorino was deported 12 years ago but made his way back to the U.S. from Mexico illegally. He was fingerprinted last September in Overland Park for driving without a license. ICE said it mistakenly sent a retainer for him to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office where the suspect was not in custody.
ICE says it regrets the error that allowed him to walk free rather than sending Vitorino back through the immigration system and eventually back to Mexico.
Vitorino will appear in a Montgomery County court early Wednesday morning.
Late update from Wellsville:
2:36 p.m. Update on Manhunt from Community R-VI:
The Community R-VI School District will not be running busses this afternoon. Parents will need to enter the school grounds on Highway BB and come to the high school door to pick up High School and Middle School students.
Parents of Elementary students will need to come to the elementary door to pick up their elementary students.
If you have any questions, please call the district office at 855-708-7567.
2:32 p.m. Update on Manhunt:
Van-Far announces that students will be sent home on the school bus. Parents can pick up their child but must call into the school.
All Van-Far activities have been canceled for tonight. No practices, no Winter Sports Program, etc.
Still waiting on Community R-VI final update. Will be receiving a call back ASAP as decision has yet to be made on sending kids home on the school bus.
12:34 p.m. Update: Five people are now confirmed dead and likely linked to a 36-year-old man named Pablo Serrano-Vitorino.
A manhunt is ongoing after Serrano-Vitorino allegedly killed four people in Kansas City, Kansas.
Sgt. Scott White, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said a fifth victim is a 49-year-old man, who was found shot in his New Florence, Mo. home.
The suspect is still at large at this time.
He is considered armed and dangerous.
His vehicle was located abandoned on I-70 in Montgomery County.
More details will be made available as they come in…
11:30 a.m. Update: Van-Far R-I Schools are currently on lock down due to a fugitive being on the loose in Montgomery County. Students are not being allowed to go outside as a precaution. This according to Van-Far Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hunter in a School Reach call.
Community R-VI Schools are also reportedly on lock down.