Lester and Kathy Porter were hiking southeast of Eureka, Nev., on Thursday when an unoccupied pickup sped by them in reverse with its cab aflame.
Lester called out, asking if everything was OK. A man stuck his head out of the bushes and calmly replied, “Yes.”
“He was way too calm,” Kathy Porter said. “We immediately knew something was wrong, so we left.”
What they reported to authorities became details of an Amber Alert four days later. The man was apparently Joshua Dundon of Boise, whom police say in the middle of a custody case picked up his daughters from school, drove them about 350 miles south and went into the mountains east of Eureka after setting his truck on fire.
Jaylynn, 6 and Madison, 7, were recovered late Monday after Dundon — barefoot and cold, seeking refuge — showed up at a ranching family’s home, asking for water. They were taken for treatment at a Boise hospital, where they were reunited with their family, Williams said.
Dundon, 29, is now held on $5 million bond, Eureka County Sheriff Keith Logan said in a mid-Tuesday press release. Boise police said he is charged with two counts of felony child custodial interference.
No Nevada charges were pending Tuesday afternoon, but the case is still under investigation by Logan’s office and the federal Bureau of Land Management, the sheriff said.
It’s unclear how soon Dundon could be returned to Idaho, Boise Police spokeswoman Haley Williams said. Nevada authorities could seek various charges there, including arson for the pickup truck.
“Prosecutors will probably work out all the rest of the details between who charges and what crimes happened where,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of things the prosecutors’ offices ... still have to work out.”
Dundon was taken Monday night to a hospital for treatment. After he’s released, he’s expected to be booked into the Washoe County Jail in Reno, Williams said.
Madison and Jaylynn were found in a mountainous area after their father arrived at a nearby rancher’s home, barefoot and cold, seeking refuge, said .
The girls were taken for treatment at a Boise hospital, where they were reunited with their family, Williams said.
Vera Baumann is the owner of the Eureka, Nev., ranch that Dundon approached. When he was spotted around 5:30 p.m. Monday, Baumann’s husband, Jim, 72, went to talk with him. Meanwhile, Baumann grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun and notified the sheriff’s office, suspecting it was the wanted Boise man.
Dundon appeared very frail and sickly, Baumann said. He was shoeless, had cut-off sweatpants, a camouflage hoodie and no shirt.
“He said he was thirsty and wanted some water,” she said.
Her husband came in the house and confirmed that the stranger was Dundon. Authorities arrived soon after, and Dundon surrendered without incident. She said Dundon gave officials information on how to find his daughters.
Deputies, community members and members of Eureka County emergency medical services and search and rescue, the Eureka Volunteer and Diamond Valley fire departments, the Nevada Division of Investigation and BLM rangers searched a 4-mile area around the ranch where Dundon said he left his daughters.
Searching in rain, resuers found the girls under a tree at about 7 p.m. They were carried out of the rough terrain, Logan said, and examined by EMS personnel before being flown to Boise for treatment.
“The girls were incredibly strong and showed great courage to survive in the conditions they faced,” Logan said.
If they had not been found before dark, the girls would have faced spending a night in the cold by themselves.
“We were thrilled with the news that they had been found. It was a scary situation there,” Williams said.
The pursuit began after the children were taken Wednesday. Dundon and the girls’ mother had joint custody during the pending court case, according to Boise police.
The mother filed the custody case in January. Dundon later filed a counterclaim, and a family intake screening had been scheduled for Friday, two days after Dundon and the girls went missing.
Dundon checked the girls out of their elementary school on Wednesday. He told witnesses that he was taking them camping near Arrowrock Reservoir, according to police.
A day later, near Eureka, the Porters were out for their walk near Richmond Springs and heard a gunshot.
The Porters did not have their cell phones, so they ran down the hill as quickly as they could to notify authorities after their encounter with the truck and Dundon. As they were leaving, they heard a young child crying and the man tell the child to be quiet.
Just as they got to the bottom of the hill, the town’s fire alarm went off and the volunteer fire department raced up the hill to put out the truck fire. By the time they were done, it was too dark to go searching for the man.
Because of the truck’s condition, it took until Monday morning for investigators to dismantle it and confirm its vehicle identification number.
Logan and his deputies found multiple sets of footprints in the area, and several used ammunition casings at the scene. They also stumbled upon Dundon’s personal effects, including survival gear and weapons “hidden away in the woods” nearby, he said. Aerial searches had found no immediate sign of the family, and the sheriff feared an escalation.
“He’s prepared for, based on the amount of ammunition he has, something greater than we already are dealing with,” Logan said Monday afternoon.
Authorities believed Dundon may have had a small dirt bike or motorcycle with him in the truck, but it’s not clear if he got access to any other vehicles.
Boise police thanked Logan and his department for their work that led to finding the two girls and taking their father into custody.
“We’re very grateful for the hard work that they put into it. They were really ‘Johnny on the spot’ and had great investigative techniques down there and were able to really do a good search that led to a rescue and recovery,” BPD’s Williams said.
Back in Boise, police walked in and out of Dundon’s home Monday evening in a cul-de-sac off of Granger Avenue and Mitchell Street, passing a camper parked in the driveway.
Mark Scheithe lives nearby and said he walks his dog past the home at 6 p.m. every day. He talked about his interactions with Dundon — including the saga of Dundon buying the camper, a lemon — and said he was surprised to see Dundon on the news regarding the Amber Alert.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Scheithe said. “He seems like a responsible guy. He seems like a great father.”
Nicole Hurley has lived across the street from Dundon since the end of March. She distinctly remembered the last time she saw him, she said, because Dundon’s four-door, large pickup was loaded with stuff, including kids’ bikes.
She thought to herself, “Dang, he must be going to have a good time.”
Hurley said her 9-year-old daughter plays with Dundon’s kids. She was hopeful that he wouldn’t hurt the girls.
“He didn’t seem like the type of guy who would harm his kids,” Hurley said.
Christopher Grow co-owns Capitol Concrete Construction LLC with Dundon. Grow hadn’t seen nor heard from him in a week, something that Dundon had never done before.
“I’d like to know where he is, too,” Grow said.
The Amber Alert stated Dundon was known to use illegal drugs and had threatened multiple times before to harm himself.
Public court records list a few past convictions, including misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance in 2008 in Canyon County and misdemeanor driving under the influence in 2009 in Ada County.
Cynthia Sewell and Kristin Rodine contributed.