Michael Anthony Lazas, the Montgomery County man convicted of smothering his toddler son in 1993 who had been missing from a Silver Spring group home since Oct. 2, was captured yesterday in Lebanon, Tenn., about 20 miles east of Nashville, authorities said.
Lazas, 32, was taken into custody without incident at the home of a family friend at 12:41 p.m. Central time (1:41 p.m. EDT), officials with the Wilson County sheriff's office said. Authorities said Lazas was tracked to the Tennessee location after he used an ATM card at a convenience store in Lebanon on Monday night.
Lazas was held last night at the Wilson County Jail in Lebanon. He is to appear before a Tennessee judge, probably today, who will rule whether the waiver of extradition that Lazas signed when he was released from the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center should be upheld. Three Montgomery County sheriff's deputies were on their way to Lebanon last night to pick up Lazas, officials said.
Upon his return, Lazas will be taken directly to the Perkins Hospital Center, in Jessup, where a hearing will be held within seven days to decide whether the conditions under which he was released ought to be permanently revoked, Montgomery Assistant State's Attorney Frank Molony said at a news conference.
He said no additional charges can be filed because Lazas did not leave a state-maintained place of confinement.
Lazas, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was last seen here when he picked up his truck, which had been impounded by Montgomery County police earlier in the day Oct. 2, after he was arrested and charged with drunken driving. He had been the subject of a nationwide search.
Before his disappearance, Lazas had been living at the West Farm Home in Silver Spring after spending five years at Perkins for killing his 23-month-old son in January 1993. He was found guilty but not criminally responsible.
Late Monday night, Lazas used an ATM card to withdraw $90, Tennessee officials said. The next morning, Montgomery sheriff's detectives informed Tennessee officials that Lazas was in the area. Using information provided by a clerk at the store, Wilson County sheriff's detectives traced Lazas to a nearby cabin. About 10 p.m. Tuesday, deputies found Lazas's 1990 burgundy Chevrolet truck parked outside the cabin, the Maryland tags and other identifying information missing.
Officials said the cabin's owner, a family friend Lazas had known since 1988, confirmed that it was the man's truck and allowed deputies to search the home, but Lazas was not there.
Lt. Detective Ricky Knight, of the Wilson County sheriff's office, said yesterday that the bedroom where Lazas had been living was "neat and in order. We found nothing out of the ordinary." Molony said detectives also found three bottles of antidepressants.
Shortly after 12:30 p.m. yesterday, a Lebanon city police detective called the cabin, and Lazas arrived there about the same time. The owner of the cabin handed the telephone to Lazas, Lebanon Police Chief Billy Weeks said. He said Lazas talked with detectives for about 10 minutes, until sheriff's deputies arrived.
Lazas's family members issued a statement last night in which they said they were sorry that his disappearance "has caused so much anxiety in the community."
When told yesterday that Lazas had been captured, Maria Lazas, a sister-in-law, said, "I'm just so happy they found him. . . . I was worried. . . . I'm just happy he's okay."