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Army Deserter Accused Of Murdering Estranged Wife Captured After Six Years On The Run

Officials say John Blauvelt fled South Carolina six years ago with his teenage girlfriend after his estranged wife, 22-year-old Cati Blauvelt, was found stabbed to death in the basement of an abandoned home. 

By Jax Miller
A police handout of John Blauvelt

A six-year manhunt has come to an end after authorities captured a man accused of murdering his estranged wife in South Carolina.

John Tufton Blauvelt, 33, was apprehended by local and federal authorities in Medford, Oregon on Wednesday, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Blauvelt is accused of fleeing South Carolina with his teenage girlfriend after his estranged wife, Catherine “Cati” Blauvelt, 22, disappeared from Simpsonville, South Carolina on Oct. 25, 2016.

The following day, friends found Cati’s body in the basement of a house that had been abandoned for more than 20 years, according to the Greenville News — which was a place Cati and her friends used to hang out as children.

A postmortem examination revealed Cati was stabbed to death with a knife.

Less than a month after Cati’s murder, Simpsonville Police obtained a warrant for Blauvelt’s arrest, charging him with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, according to Jackson officials. But by then, Blauvelt — who worked as a U.S. Army recruiter in Greenville County — had fled the state with this then-17-year-old girlfriend in tow.

He was classified as an army deserter.

A police handout of Catherine Blauvelt

The girlfriend — Hannah Thompson of Fountain Inn, South Carolina — was reported missing by her parents on Nov. 21, 2016, just three days after police issued a warrant for Blauvelt’s arrest. But officials said Blauvelt had been spotted in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Nov. 15, with a female passenger believed to have been Thompson.

“After the U.S. Marshals joined the search to find Blauvelt, they learned he and Thompson had traveled through Alabama, Texas and California,” officials stated. “Thompson was found safe in Oregon on Dec. 12, 2016, having been abandoned by Blauvelt.”

According to officials, Blauvelt and Thompson were living as a homeless couple in Oregon before she contacted her parents, requesting to return home to South Carolina. Simpsonville Police stated John Blauvelt was known to live around wooded areas near the Oregon-Washington border.

The case was featured on “In Pursuit with John Walsh” in 2019.

On Wednesday, The Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force (PNVOTF) led by the U.S. Marshals Service captured Blauvelt following a lead received at the Marshals' headquarters earlier this year. The nature of the tip was not disclosed, but officials stated Blauvelt had been living as “Ben Klein” when they arrested him without incident.

“We are glad this offender is in custody, and the process can begin to seek justice for the victim and her family,” said Jackson Sheriff Nathan Sickler. “The work of this local violent offender task force is extremely important to the safety of our community, and we are proud of their efforts and our continued partnerships.”

A police handout of the arrest of John Blauvelt

Cati’s family has believed John Blauvelt was responsible for her murder all along, according to the Greenville News.

“Losing a child is unbearable. We knew John did it,” Cati’s mother, Patricia Piver, said during a press conference on Thursday. “But when he ran, our hearts sunk, and then he disappeared off the face of the map, and months turned into years, and now five and a half years later, I mean, you lose hope, and you just gotta find something to hold onto.

“But getting that call yesterday, I’m still shaking,” Piver continued. “It was the most amazing phone call ever.”

Piver told reporters that Cati's relationship consisted of intimate partner violence and hoped others could learn from her daughter’s story.

“He or she will beat you one day and then the next day apologize. Don’t believe it,” Piver said. “She (Cati) got away from him and moved back home. [But] they’re not gonna change. They threaten, beat, and hurt you, get away and stay away.”

John Blauvelt was booked into the Jackson County Jail, where he awaits extradition to South Carolina to face prosecution.