Police identify man suspected in series of break-ins, sex crimes

Monday, May 12, 2014 | 5:41 p.m. CDT; updated 10:30 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 12, 2014

COLUMBIA — The man who was suspected of a series of violent break-ins and sex-related crimes and whose body was found Saturday after a weekend manhunt has been identified by Columbia police as Zane S. Black, 36, of Columbia.

MU students late Saturday morning found Black’s body in a hallway at MU’s Trowbridge Livestock Center and called police, MU Police Department spokesman Capt. Brian Weimer said. Black had been reported missing on May 8 by Columbia police, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s missing persons list.

Black’s death appears to be a suicide, and no foul play is suspected, according to an MU news release. His body matched the description of the man whom law enforcement had been pursuing Friday night.

The string of events that ended with the man's body being found began Friday afternoon, when police received a report of a Peeping Tom incident that had taken place on May 1 in the 2500 block of Bluff Boulevard, Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Latisha Stroer said. The woman reporting the incident said a man had looked through her bedroom window as she was getting dressed after a shower. The woman was able to identify the man for police.

A check of voter registration records on the Boone County clerk’s website listed Black’s address on Bluff Boulevard.

Bradley Johnson, spokesman for the Sinclair School of Nursing at MU, said Black was a 2013 graduate of the school. Black has worked as a staff nurse for University Hospital since August 2013, said hospital spokeswoman Mary Jenkins.

Police contacted Black by telephone Friday afternoon and told him they wanted to speak to him about the May 1 incident and others in the area, according to a Saturday news release from the Police Department. Stroer said the man knew officers were looking for him but made no further contact with police after the phone call. 

The Columbia Police Department on Friday issued a news release detailing a series of break-ins and sexual assaults that occurred in Columbia beginning on May 1 that were believed to be related.

Police said those incidents were also similar to nine break-ins that happened between June and November of last year. In some of those incidents, the suspect entered unlocked homes while the residents were sleeping. One of the victims said he jumped on her bed and hit her in the chest; another said he threatened her with a sharp object then sexually assaulted her. 

Later Friday, police received a call about a suspicious man near the 3100 block of Rock Quarry Road shortly before 8 p.m., Stroer said. Police believed he was the man they had spoken to on the phone earlier. When officers responded to the area, the man ran into the woods, and police ran after him.

This set off a large-scale manhunt that involved a series of public alerts, K-9 tracking teams and a helicopter search of the area. Law enforcement established a perimeter around the wooded area in which the suspect was running.

MU Police, the Boone County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol helped with the search, which was scaled back after about four hours.

Around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Columbia police said in a release that the search for the suspect was over after they confirmed that the man whose body had been discovered Saturday was the same man they were looking for. The livestock center is about 1.5 miles away from the area where the man originally fled.

Police released Black's name Sunday afternoon after they contacted his next of kin, according to a release. 

The most recent of the crimes in which Black is suspected occurred early Friday morning, when a man with a knife entered a residence through an unlocked door and sexually assaulted a woman.

Stroer said Monday morning that there was no further information to release.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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