Amber Alert suspect surrenders, baby safely recovered

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by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 31, 2011 at 7:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 1 at 12:58 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- The man wanted for killing his ex-girlfriend and kidnapping their 9-month-old baby turned himself in at a Puyallup hospital early Tuesday, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office said.  The baby girl was safely recovered, putting an end to a 6-hour-long Amber Alert.

The Amber Alert was issued for the girl after police found her mother stabbed to death Monday night at a home on the 6000 block of 57th Avenue West in University Place.

Suspect Joseph Andrew Lester, the baby's father, surrendered at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup around 1 a.m. Tuesday, said Det. Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.  Lester was immediately arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail on one count of murder.

The baby was giggling and laughing while being checked out at the hospital, Troyer said.  She was turned over to Child Protective Services. 

Police said Lester stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death and took their daughter sometime around 5 p.m. Monday.The victim's relatives said the woman was about three months pregnant with the suspect's child, although authorities could not confirm that Monday night.

He initially fled in a 1992 Chevy Caprice with oversized rims and loud exhaust, but someone spotted that vehicle shortly before 10 p.m. in Tacoma and called police.

Pierce County authorities found his car in Tacoma, but there was no sign of Lester or the missing child. The car was towed to a secure location late Monday so investigators could execute a search warrant, Troyer said.

After a couple of hours on the run, Lester turned himself and his 9-month-old baby in at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Neighbors and Pierce County authorities reported a history of domestic violence problems at the home in the past.

"It's been happening too much," said neighbor Daniel Roscoe.  "I knew something like this would happen."

Relatives of the 21-year-old victim said she was in the process of trying to leave Lester.

"She was a lovely lady," said Kathleen Gooden, the victim's aunt. "She was striving for the best that life can give her, but apparently life stops now."

"She's a great mom, a wonderful mom," said Venika Gauthier, the victim's sister.  "She didn't deserve what she got tonight."

The victim had another child, a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, who was also in the home at the time of the murder, authorities said, but he was not harmed.  Lester is not that child's father.

Lester is scheduled to make his first court appearance Wednesday.

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