(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Authorities appealed for the public’s help Thursday in finding a man suspected in the fatal shooting of a Tennessee sheriff’s deputy. The man they said they’re looking for has a lengthy arrest record and was charged just the day before with hitting a woman and stealing her car.
That woman was in the car with the suspect when he pulled the trigger and she is now jailed on a murder charge in the death of sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Baker, according to court documents.
The deputy’s body was found in his patrol car in a wooded area several miles (kilometers) from where he had stopped a suspicious car on Wednesday.
Rewards totaling $46,000 have been offered for information leading to the arrest of Steven Joshua Wiggins, 31, a white male with balding brown hair. Officials said they believe he is armed and dangerous.
“It’s very imperative for everyone to keep their eyes, their ears open for this individual,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Niland said at a news conference Thursday. “He could be in Dickson County. He could be in a neighboring county. But the fact is, we don’t know where he is.”
Federal, state and local authorities have joined the search. They are checking into hundreds of tips, though authorities said there have been no confirmed sightings as of Thursday evening. Wiggins was last seen wearing blue jeans and a black polo shirt, but could have changed his outfit, Niland said. Still, Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe said he believes Wiggins might be on foot in the area.
“At this point, we’re going to work with all our agencies and all of our partners, and there will be no rest until he’s taken into custody,” Bledsoe said at the news conference.
Baker couldn’t be contacted for some time after responding to a call about a suspicious car Wednesday, Niland said. The deputy’s car was tracked by GPS to a wooded area about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away, and Baker was found dead inside the vehicle.
Wiggins was identified as the suspect from a video recording, and the sheriff said he is even more heartbroken over what Baker endured after watching the “disturbing” footage. Bledsoe declined to discuss specifics, citing the ongoing investigation.
Wiggins was already wanted on charges that he assaulted the woman and stole her car when he was pulled over, according to a report from the Kingston Springs Police Department.
The woman, Erika Castro-Miles, 38, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder after investigators realized that she had participated in Baker’s death, the TBI said.
According to the police report, Castro-Miles said early Tuesday that Wiggins had slapped her in the face and pulled out some of her hair, then put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her if she called police. She said he then grabbed her keys and took her car without her permission. She told police then that Wiggins had been “doing meth all night and smoking marijuana.” She told police she planned to press charges, the report said.
According to local news reports, an affidavit filed in Dickson County court says Castro-Miles was sitting in the car with Wiggins when he shot and killed the deputy. She fled the shooting scene Wednesday and hid under a house, the affidavit says.
Castro-Miles is being detained at the Dickson County Jail. It is not immediately known if she has an attorney.
As for Wiggins, the sheriff said he must be held accountable, facing the maximum penalty the law will allow.
The sheriff said Baker, 32, was one of the department’s best, a supervisor who had worked his way up to sergeant on patrol during his 10-year stint with the office. He is survived by his wife and daughter.
Bledsoe said his agency has lost a brother, and the community has lost a hero.
“Our heart’s shattered with this,” he said.