'Person of interest' in slaying has lengthy criminal history

Law enforcement officers are engaged in a massive manhunt for George West Craigen.

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MILTON-FREEWATER - A man who eluded police for 20 years is now at the center of one of the largest police searches to hit the area, after anearly morning shooting that left a Milton-Freewater man dead.

At 8:30 a.m., Cecil "Rob" Carter, 54, was shot at his home at 52856Stephens Road, officials said. Carter died at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, according to Walla Walla County Coroner Richard Greenwood.

What followed has been a massive search for a "person of interest," only recently named as George West Craigen, 48.

Officers, including SWAT team personnel, have been called in from numerous agencies on both sides of the state line.

One team came in Friday aftenroon from Roseburg, Ore., but the majority have been from Umatilla and Walla Walla counties and Oregon State Police.

The man they are searching for is said to have a criminal history thatgoes back 25 years, with his most recent arrest also involving a localsearch.

In May, the East Oregonian reported Craigen was arrested onwarrants out of Umatilla County dating to 1991 and one fromHawaii from 2000.

The article went on to report Craigen's criminal history includesthird-degree rape, giving an illegal drug to a minor and paroleviolation for carrying a .22-caliber rifle.

The May arrest included officers from Milton-Freewater, Athena, WallaWalla County Sheriff's office and Oregon State Police, who were calledin to search an orchard where Craigen was found hiding.

On Friday, police found themselves once again searching nearby theorchards for Craigen, which left some neighbor's asking why they werenot alerted about the massive manhunt.

One neighbor who lives less than a quarter-mile from the crime scene saidhe found out about about the manhunt when a family member called himat work.

The neighbor said he called his older children and told them to lockthemselves inside, then headed home and searched his property.

Another nearby neighbor, John Borchert, said an officer and friend ofthe family alerted him of the situation, but he had no idea that themanhunt was continuing throughout the day.

Borchert said he went on about his business, unaware that a possiblyarmed and dangerous suspect was still about.

"We would have never left the place had I known this was still indoubt. It would have been nice to get some fresher news," Borchertsaid, adding that he would be prepared tonight.

"I have been busy locking everything up and arming myself because whatelse are you going to do," he added.

Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus said he held off on namingthe man they searched for or even notifying the media of the searchuntil police agencies felt it was necessary.

Around 4 p.m. the official call to the media was made stating that theperson of interest they are searching for is Craigen.

Around that time, about 25 police vehicles were parked at theMilton-Freewater Fire Department training tower, which is the commandstation for the massive search.

Walla Walla police Officer Tim Bennett, his department's spokesman, estimated there could be 50 or more officers now involved in the search for Craigen.

Bennett also said he was told the man they are looking for is a hunterand armed with a rifle.

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