Man Faces Federal Charges in Alleged Attempt to Fake His Death

Associated Press
Thursday, January 15, 2009

CHATTAHOOCHEE, Fla., Jan. 14 -- A daredevil money manager whose run from ruin was halted when investigators interrupted his suicide attempt at a Florida campground found his legal problems compounded Wednesday as authorities filed federal charges against him in the three-day ordeal.

U.S. marshals tracked Marcus Schrenker, 38, to a northern Florida campground Tuesday night, peeling back the flap to his one-man tent to discover him in clouded consciousness with blood-soaked arms, muttering the word "die." The capture ended a multi-state scramble to find him after he allegedly staged a plane crash and parachuted out over Alabama, then fled.

Scott Wilson, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service's Northern District of Florida, said Schrenker was charged with intentionally wrecking his aircraft and faking a distress call, causing the Coast Guard to launch a search to save his life when it was not necessary. Schrenker was resting in a heavily guarded hospital room Wednesday but was expected to appear in a Florida court before returning to his home state of Indiana, Wilson said.

How U.S. marshals were able to track Schrenker to the campsite remained a mystery, but he gave them ample opportunity: Officials said he drove a flashy red motorcycle, approached local police after allegedly jumping out of the plane and even sent an e-mail to a friend saying the whole situation was a misunderstanding.

"It's certainly something right out of Hollywood -- someone parachuting out of a plane to avoid capture as a fugitive. It's certainly not the run-of-the-mill case for us," Wilson said.

The campground's owners said Schrenker arrived at the tree-lined site Monday night, riding the red cycle and wearing a brown leather jacket. He did not give a name but handed over $25.75 in cash for a tent site and bought some firewood and a six-pack of Bud Light Lime. They gave him a password for the site's wireless Internet connection, owner Caroline Hastings said.

"He said he was going across the country with some buddies. He wanted to stop. He didn't know if they would," said Hastings, 32, who operates the campsite with her husband, Troy.

The next day, the couple grew suspicious when he hadn't checked out by 5 p.m. after having paid for only one night. Troy Hastings went to his tent and saw a red stain on one of the outer flaps.

"Are you okay? Planning to spend another night?" he called out.

Schrenker said that he was and that he would be by later to pay. He did not come.

Later, the Hastings were making dinner when the sheriff called and asked whether anything odd was going on. Troy Hastings mentioned the camper, and the sheriff asked whether they could come identify him. Caroline Hastings did not need to look at a picture long to know it was him -- and soon authorities swarmed onto the grounds and found Schrenker bloodied and barely conscious.

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