UPDATED: Subject of Wythe County manhunt dies

Officers at the New River Valley Regional Jail found Sam Peak hanging in his cell Tuesday night

January 13, 2012|WDBJ Web Staff

Fort Chiswell, Va. — UPDATED 10:05 a.m. Friday: The superintendent of the New River Valley Regional Jail has confirmed to NEWS7 that Joseph Samuel Peak died Thursday night.

Peak was the subject of a manhunt over the weekend.

He was found hanging in his cell Tuesday night.


UPDATED 11:08 a.m. Wednesday:

The subject of a manhunt over the weekend in Wythe County is in critical condition at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Officers at the New River Valley Regional Jail found Joseph "Sam" Peak hanging in his cell around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday night.

They immediately got him down.

His heart wasn't beating.

Officers had to shock his heart back to life.

They say he wasn't on suicide watch because he didn't show any signs he was considering killing himself.

Peak is accused of breaking into a woman's home in Wythe County over the weekend.

It's the home of a woman he's accused of raping.

He was out of jail on bond for that crime when he supposedly broke in the home.

Police finally found him at a motel on Sunday.

They searched for him for ten hours.



UPDATED 11:35 a.m. Monday:

A second person has been arrested following Sunday's manhunt in Wythe County.

Several agencies had been looking for Sam Peak on Sunday.

Peak was accused of breaking into a home and pulling a gun on a person.

Investigators say they developed a link between Emily Jennings and Peak. They determined that Jennings' son, Travis Safewright, rented a room at a Motel 6 on Sunday.

When investigators got to the room, Jennings opened the door and they saw Peak inside.

Peak and Jennings are being held at the New River Valley Regional Jail.

Emily Jennings, 41, has been charged with felony possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, felony child endangerment and misdemeanor accessory after the fact.

Jennings' children have been placed in the care of the Department of Social Services.


The manhunt that began Sunday morning in Wythe County came to a peaceful conclusion several hours later.

State police, ATF agents and the U.S. Marshal's Service were all searching for Sam Peak.

Wythe County Chief Deputy Keith Dunagan tells News 7 Peak broke into a woman's house early Sunday morning.  Peak was out on bond from charges stemming from a domestic dispute he had with the woman last month. 

According to the victim's family, Peak was staying with his mother.  The family says Peak's mother had called the victim around 8:00 p.m. Saturday to warn her that Peak may be coming to her home.  Dunagan says Peak cut off a tracking bracelet he was forced to wear at some point during all of this.

The alleged victim's family tells News 7 that she spent the night at the family's house across the street.  Early Sunday morning Sidney Smith, a family friend, came to check in on the victim's dogs and then found himself looking down the barrel of a gun wielded by Sam Peak.

Peak told Smith to get out of the house.  Smith then ran across the street and the family called police.

Dunagan tells us when he got to the house, Peak was gone, and the manhunt ensued.  Several law enforcement agencies set up a perimeter around the woods near the victim's house to locate Peak.

Authorities finally found him at a Motel 6 in Wytheville, four miles from the home where the manhunt began.  They also tell us peak did not resist arrest and he is now being held at the Wythe County Sheriff's Office.

Chief Deputy Dunagan says authorities recovered a gun along with some illegal drugs in the hotel room, but they're still processing the scene.  The investigation continues, as there are still several key questions that need to be answered like how Peak got to the motel and who paid for the room.  Dunagan tells us Peak did not pay for it.


Update: 6:25 p.m.:

Chief Deputy Keith Dunagan tells News 7 the suspect they were searching for, Sam Peak, has been captured.  Authorities recovered a gun at the site.

Check back for more updates and tune in to News 7 at 11 for the latest.


Authorities are searching the mountainous area in rural Wytheville.

Chief Deputy Keith Dunagan with the Wythe County Sheriff's Officer tells News7 a man broke into a home shortly before 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Dunagan says another person showed up at the home and the man pulled a gun on that person and threathened to kill them.

That person got away and called police.

Dunagan says the man they're looking for took off into the woods.

State Police, ATF agents and the Marshal Service are involved with this manhunt because this man has warrants and is out on bond.

He is considered dangerous and has a gun.

Authorities will continue to search for him throughout the night.

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