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Robert Schnieder the victim
Toothless man accused of Aussie's attack
Wednesday Apr 2 14:40 AEDT
Fugitive Frank Montoya's teeth, or lack of them, contributed to his downfall.
As Montoya's new police mug shot shows, the man accused of torturing Australian tourist Robert Schneider by bashing him with a skateboard and then dropping him in a fire pit has a distinctive smile.
Montoya and co-accused Damian Maple had been on the run since the alleged February 27 attack on a beach in the southern California city of San Diego.
Both were arrested more than 1,000km away on Monday. Montoya, 46, was found sitting alone on a step outside a music hall in the city of Eugene in Oregon.
Maple, 21, was found by US Marshals and sheriffs hiding under a bed in a home in the sparsely populated community of Coolin, Idaho.
Both arrests followed tip-offs by outraged Americans following media coverage of the attack on Schneider, a 26-year-old electrician from Adelaide.
The attack left the Australian with third degree burns to 15 per cent of his body, a fractured skull, broken wrist and lacerations to his face and body.
On Monday morning a resident in Eugene called to tell police a man fitting Montoya's description, who he had seen on America's Most Wanted (AMW) TV show, was sitting on the steps of a local music hall.
Eugene police officer Kyle Evans checked out the information.
"The citizen that called in said Montoya was wearing a bandanna and yellow sunglasses and I saw the bright yellow sunglasses hanging off his shirt," Evans told AAP. "I could see the glasses from about a block and a half away."
Evans had also printed out a description of Montoya from the AMW site and held it in his hand when he approached. "The AMW description said Montoya was missing his front teeth," Evans said. When Montoya opened his mouth and flashed his lack of pearly whites, Evans knew he had his man.
Montoya surrendered without a struggle and during a court appearance on Tuesday waived his right to fight extradition, meaning he will soon be back in San Diego to face charges of torture and aggravated mayhem. Maple appeared in a court in Idaho's Bonner County and also agreed to waive extradition to California.
Maple is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, battery, torture and aggravated mayhem.
If convicted, both face maximum sentences of life in prison.
Law enforcement officers in Oregon and Idaho, horrified by the attack on Schneider, said they hoped the arrests would help the Australian and his family with their recovery. "It sound like it's a pretty horrific crime that has occurred," Evans said. "It's pretty neat to get a tip from a citizen and follow up on it and actually make the arrest. "I'm sure it puts the family and the victim of the case at ease a little bit."
Schneider, on a backpacking trip around the world, was allegedly attacked at about 5.30am on February 27 as he celebrated his 26th birthday at San Diego's Ocean Beach.
Montoya and Maple are accused of picking a fight with the Australian and then bashing him with a skateboard before tossing him into the flames in a beach fire pit.
Montoya and Maple fled, but an onlooker dragged Schneider out of the flames.
Schneider's parents, Peter and Judy, flew from Adelaide to be with their son and say they are relieved their son's accused attackers are in custody. "You just shake your head and think, what would make somebody do this sort of thing?" Peter Schneider told San Diego's NBC affiliate TV station.
The Schneiders said their son is recuperating well, is now able to walk and talk and could be released from hospital in the next couple of weeks.