They made a brief television appearance, and the next day they were behind bars.
An astute viewer of Washington’s Most Wanted – who also happens to be a Lakewood police detective with a tradition of watching the show with his daughter – spotted Joseph Williams and Eileen Dilbeck at a Tacoma gas station less than a day after they were featured on air.
“I have crazy good luck like that,” Det. Ryan Larson said. “I’m thinking I should start playing the lottery.”
Larson watched the show Feb. 15. He heard how Williams was being sought after escaping from community custody while serving time for vehicular homicide, second-degree assault and failure to remain at the scene of an accident.
The show also mentioned Williams’ girlfriend, Dilbeck, who was wanted for interfering with a child custody case in Wisconsin. She allegedly gave custody of her son to her grandfather and then reappeared and took him without permission.
The next day, Larson was driving to a friend’s house when he pulled off the freeway and stopped to fill up at a gas station on South Hosmer Street in Tacoma.
There in front of him, walking out of the parking lot and across the street to a motel, were Williams and Dilbeck. Larson said he recognized them because of Williams’ distinctive bushy eyebrows.
Larson sat in his car and watched for a moment before calling the on-duty sergeant and asking him to send pictures of the suspects. He couldn’t remember their names but he knew he’d recognize their faces.
Once he saw them, he knew. Larson directed officers to their motel room and they were arrested. Then he called his daughter, who he said “thought it was the coolest thing.”