Alleged fugitive couple sought by South Jersey police

Teague Caton, 20, is allegedly on the lam with Jacqueline Negra, 23.
Teague Caton, 20, is allegedly on the lam with Jacqueline Negra, 23.
Posted: November 19, 2010

He is an AWOL sailor with a drug history. She, according to her family, is seriously ill and fleeing what she feels is an uncertain future.

Teague Caton, 20, and Jacqueline Negra, 23, have been running from authorities since the early morning of Nov. 10, when they allegedly raced out of an Edgewater Park roadside lot with a police officer hanging from the window of Caton's truck.

They have racked up a slew of criminal charges, cutting a sloppy and dangerous path across South Jersey. They plundered a Voorhees home, police say, and narrowly escaped capture in Cherry Hill while hocking stolen jewelry. And investigators want to talk to them about a number of other area burglaries.

Detectives are following their trail south toward Virginia, where Caton, of Medford, is stationed with the Navy.

"They are a couple of kids hooked on drugs and running with scissors," said Detective Dennis Ober of the Voorhees Police Department. "They're in way over their heads."

The couple have been dating for only a short time, Marla Burkhart, Negra's aunt, said in an interview.

They met one afternoon about three weeks ago when Caton showed up at the Cherry Hill home Negra lives in with her grandmother.

Caton was working a landscaping job on the street and asked to borrow a tarp, Burkhart said.

The two began spending all their time together, with Caton coming over for dinner.

"He seemed like a respectable boy" Burkhart said.

Caton, who graduated from Shawnee High School in Medford, had failed to report back to his naval station in Norfolk, Va., after coming home Oct. 23 for a relative's birthday. An aviation machinist's mate who works on aircraft engines, Caton is listed in "unauthorized absence" status, the naval equivalent of AWOL, Navy officials said.

In a Burlington County Times article, Caton's mother, Maureen Simcox, said her son had completed drug rehab before enlisting in 2009.

Negra was recently hospitalized with kidney disease, Burkhart said. Doctors told her she may need dialysis, which left the young woman terrified, Burkhart said. Her next scheduled medical appointment had been Thursday.

"Her friends Googled dialysis and told her people who get dialysis die," Burkhart said. "They filled her head with that junk. She was terrified about seeing the doctor."

The family believes her fear has led to rash mistakes.

"Other than to Wildwood for family vacations, she's never even been away from home," Burkhart said.

The pair's misadventure began early Nov. 10 in the parking lot of an auto-repair shop near Route 130.

Edgewater Park Lt. Robert Hess was working the overnight shift when a 6:10 a.m. call came over his radio about two people sleeping in a truck.

Hess and his partner pulled their cruiser behind Caton's black 2006 GMC Envoy, noticing its expired temporary Virginia tags. Hess tapped on the driver's-side window.

Caton, wearing glasses and a thin, reddish beard, and dressed in a blue military camouflage jacket and a knit hat, looked as if he had just awakened, "like he was trying to pull himself together," Hess said.

Negra reclined in the passenger seat, asleep, with a parka pulled over her face.

Caton told Hess that he was heading to Virginia, but had gotten lost. Having no license, he gave Hess a Salem County welfare card.

"He was smoking a cigarette and seemed nervous," Hess said.

The officer spoke loudly to Negra, waking her, then ran background checks.

Two Medford warrants for trespassing in 2009 appeared for Caton. And Caton's family had filed a missing-person's report a few days earlier, prompting stories in local papers.

"Step out of the car," Hess said. Caton refused.

"He was smoking faster now and kept looking over at Negra," the officer said. "I told him not to do anything stupid."

Caton looked at Negra again, and Hess reached in the window, grabbing Caton's arm. Negra turned the ignition.

"The r.p.m.'s went through the roof," Hess said.

Negra dropped the car into drive. With his arm still in the half-open window, Hess managed to stay on his feet as the truck pulled him about 20 feet, bruising and swelling his hands.

The officers pursued Caton, with the fugitive jumping curbs and running over stop signs as he raced close to what police estimated was 100 m.p.h. through apartment complexes, a soccer field, and even the police station parking lot.

As Caton weaved through traffic, police ended the chase out of concern for bystanders.

The next afternoon, Detective Mark Buehler of the Cherry Hill Police Department was investigating a home burglary when he pulled up to a We Buy Gold shop along Route 70.

He was not aware of Caton and Negra's fugitive status, but noticed the Envoy's temporary Virginia tags and - thinking them suspicious - jotted down the plate numbers. Inside the store, Buehler saw a male and female selling jewelry to a clerk.

"If I knew who they were and that they were wanted, I would have grabbed them right there," Buehler said.

After the couple left, Buehler checked their pawn slip, which was in Negra's name.

She had been paid $2,500 for a bounty of gold watches, earrings, necklaces, and charms.

Buehler checked the jewelry against what had been stolen from his victim, but it wasn't a match, so he sent an e-mail out to authorities in surrounding municipalities informing them of the jewelry, which he suspected had been stolen.

Ober, of Voorhees, received the e-mail, and a few hours later, he thought of it again when he got a call for a home burglary. A couple had returned home from work and discovered they had been robbed of jewelry, iPods, cameras, and credit cards.

The spare key in the backyard was missing.

Besides family, they told Ober, only Jacqueline Negra, a girl who used to date their son, knew about the key. Their son no longer lived in the house, and he and Negra had broken up months ago.

The stolen jewelry in the gold shop was returned to the Voorhees couple. One of the missing credit cards was used at a Baltimore gas station and parking lot last Friday morning, Ober said.

Caton and Negra's warrants have been entered into a national crime database.

"It's only a matter of time," Ober said.

Caton is facing aggravated assault charges on a police officer and resisting arrest, while Negra is wanted for hindering the apprehension of a wanted suspect.

Negra has been charged with the Voorhees burglary and theft by deception for selling the stolen items to the gold shop.

Caton's family could not be reached for comment, but Negra's family says she has called home twice from a blocked number, saying she is scared to come home. Her family pleaded with her.

"We just want her home so she can be treated for her illness," Burkhart said, wringing her hands. "The longer they stay away, the worse it will all be."


Contact staff writer Mike Newall at 856-779-3237 or mnewall@phillynews.com.

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