Man who evaded arrest in the desert after sexual conduct with minor sentenced to 25 years

·2 min read
David Whitaker's handmade shack in the desert
David Whitaker's handmade shack in the desert

David Whitaker, who evaded arrest for 107 days in the desert after sexual conduct with a 13-year-old girl, was sentenced to 25 years in prison last week, according to Pinal County Sheriff's Office.

The 42-year-old man from Red Rock was reported to the office on Nov. 28, 2020, for having sexual contact with the girl. Police said the victim later told detectives the abuse had been ongoing.

When deputies were on their way to Whitaker's home, he left the residence and walked into the desert armed with a handgun, according to the Sheriff's Office. Police said Whitaker was a known "survivalist" and had a high likelihood of "success living off the grid" without detection.

Over the next several weeks, PCSO continued to comb the desert and conduct surveillance operations in areas Whitaker might be hiding.

Whitaker was found and arrested on March 15, 2021 —107 days after he walked into the desert — with the help of Department of Public Safety troopers, police said.

He had lived in a shack he constructed which had a bed and a roof, and he survived by catching fish out of a nearby canal as well as by hunting javelina and rabbit.

After being found, Whitaker was booked into a Pinal County jail on suspicion of attempted sexual conduct with a minor, three counts of sexual conduct with a minor, indecent exposure and sexual abuse.

On Jan. 19, Whitaker agreed to a plea deal that sentenced him to 25 years in prison with 310 days credit for time served, police said.

"To those who commit crimes and believe the repercussions can be avoided, as your Sheriff, know what we will not give up on bringing you to justice," said Sheriff Mark Lamb.

Reporter Jamie Landers contributed to this story.

Reach breaking news reporter Angela Cordoba Perez at Angela.CordobaPerez@Gannett.com or on Twitter @AngelaCordobaP.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: David Whitaker, who evaded arrest in desert, sentenced to 25 years

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