May 19, 2014



Bibian Curry stepped out onto her front stoop Friday morning to feel the air.

The 16-year-old with big eyes wanted to wear a dress to class that day, the last full day of the school year.

And as she stood there about 6:30 a.m., she saw Mark Kevin Lee, 27 - who would 14 hours later be arrested for the alleged stabbing of his ex-girlfirend - walk briskly from his home across the street and down the block on his way to work at Juergens Produce and Feed, about 1 1/2 miles away.

Curry thought nothing at the time of the man, whom she had seen occasionally coming and going from the small white house down the block at 1308 N. Main St., and she decided to wear the dress and went back inside.

Not long after, a woman with a bloodied, swollen face and hands escaped from the basement of Lee's house - where she had been allegedly stabbed in the chest with an undisclosed sharp object late the night before - and walked around a long, tall wooden fence to the front door of Amy Carpenter's residence.

The woman rang the doorbell.

Carpenter and her 7-year-old son, Carter, were in the kitchen at the time, and Carter went to the door. As he fumbled with the dead-bolt lock, his mother saw a woman she didn't recognize and told Carter to stop.

Whoa, that's a stranger, mom reminded him.

Amy Carpenter unlocked the door and found a woman - her face swollen and bloodied - wearing an overcoat on her doorstep.

Call 911, the woman breathed.

So Carpenter called about 7:20 a.m. and her son scurried off to another part of the house to hide.

The woman, Christine Burtnett, 25, had gone to Lee's house the night before - possibly to collect some possessions from Lee, with whom she had lived, according to county records - and Burtnett told Carpenter that she had waited until he left for work this morning to make her escape from the basement, from which loud music was playing on a stereo.

"She was in shock, shivering. She could barely talk or walk. Her lips were swollen," Carpenter recounted in an interview with the Daily Times Herald. "She said she had been stabbed, that her ex-boyfriend had done this."

Carpenter couldn't see the woman's wounds because they were covered by the overcoat. They stayed on the stoop and waited for paramedics to arrive.

Across the street, high school student Curry stepped out into her front yard again to wait for a ride to school.

She saw Burtnett hunched over, being led by paramedics to an ambulance a short ways away. Burtnett was later taken by medical helicopter to a Des Moines hospital.

Curry rode with a friend to school, where other students later talked about a stabbing near Adams Elementary.

"I said, 'I live near Adams and saw a couple of ambulances this morning,'" Curry said. "This is kind of scary."



DAYLONG SEARCH

Officers who initially responded the reported stabbing went to Juergens Produce and Feed to find Lee.

Police Chief Jeff Cayler went into the business between 8 and 8:30 a.m., talked to a manager there who said he would try to locate Lee, and Cayler stepped outside where he saw Lee about a block away.

Lee ran north and Cayler gave a brief chase and yelled: "Mark!"

Lee stopped and turned around.

"We need to talk!" Cayler shouted.

Lee paused for a bit and then took off across the railroad tracks near Kmart and Hy-Vee. Officers later searched the businesses for Lee, but didn't find him. They thought he might try to run back to his house, so they scoured the route back.

Officers found Lee's coat in a trash can at Minchen Park.

Cayler talked to Carroll and Kuemper school officials about the manhunt, and they decided to lock down the schools as a precaution about 9:30 a.m.

Some area businesses locked their doors, too.

Cayler had called Lee's cellphone early in the search, but Lee didn't answer. Lee later called back about 10:30 a.m.

"He asked who I was, and I told him we really needed to speak to him, to get his side of the story," Cayler recalled this morning.

Lee reportedly replied, "About what?" and then he told Cayler he would call back. He didn't.

Officer Brad Burke saw Lee a short time later on the north side of town but Lee escaped again.

Cayler tried to call Lee about a dozen times throughout the day, as media reports circulated about the alleged stabbing and the manhunt that involved officers and sheriff's deputies from Carroll and Crawford counties. Numerous residents reported seeing a man who fit Lee's description in all parts of town.

Cayler responded to one of those calls and found a man who knew Lee. The man agreed to ride with Cayler and gave him some more information about Lee and where he might be.

Verizon Wireless helped police track Lee's cellphone, but the man kept turning it off, which made him difficult to find, Cayler said.

Schools dismissed at their normal times that afternoon, and Carroll residents went about their days, some attending high school graduation parties throughout town.

For hours Verizon reported that Lee was in the 200 block of Randall Road on the north side of town, and officers kept watch over the area.



HIDING FOR HOURS

Resident Carey Kersey returned to her house on Randall Road about 5:30 p.m.

She had seen the officers in the area and heard Lee might be nearby. She went to her backyard to look for the man, she told the Times Herald in an interview this morning.

Kersey checked a small shed and later noticed that a purple bed sheet was missing from one of her garden beds of green peppers, which she had covered to protect from frost. The sheets were weighed down with rocks, so someone must have taken it on purpose, she thought at the time.

Kersey peered under her deck - which lies about 18 inches above ground. Just enough space for someone to crawl underneath.

She couldn't see Lee, who was obscured by a small pile of leaves and had apparently wrapped himself in that purple sheet.

Kersey went back inside.

Later, she and her husband Paul and his son were watching the Tom Hanks flick "Captain Phillips" when Kersey noticed officers walking toward her house about 8:30 p.m.

She met with two officers who wanted to search her backyard, and they walked through the house and out onto the back deck.

One officer shined his flashlight under the deck and yelled that Lee was there. Officer Sandy March drew her pistol and ordered Lee to come out, Kersey said.

Kersey ran back inside the house and watched from a window as the officers held Lee face-down on the ground and cuffed him.

"It was exciting, yet weird, yet freaky, yet ... I don't know," Kersey said of the experience. "I'm just glad I wasn't the one who saw him first."



MORE CHARGES EXPECTED

Officers arrested Lee and charged him with willful injury, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Further charges are expected this week as investigators piece together the evidence they will use to prosecute the man.

The victim, Burtnett, survived the attack and is stable. She was interviewed by a FBI agent on Friday, but Cayler said this morning he has no details yet from that interview. He could not say how many times Burtnett had been stabbed nor with what sharp object.

Magistrate Judge Eric Neu set Lee's bond at $100,000 during the man's initial appearance Saturday morning at the Carroll County Courthouse. He is still held in county jail.

Lee barely spoke during his initial appearance on Saturday but said:

"I know what I did was wrong, and I barely remember anything that happened Thursday night."