Son in Sanford murders found safe, stepfather arrested

Saturday, July 18, 2015
Son in Sanford murders found safe, stepfather arrested
Tobias McLean and Billy Jo McLean were located in Oldham County, Texas.

SANFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- Calandra McLean's 17-year-old son, Tobias, was found safe after his mother and sister, TaShonna, were found dead inside their burning Sanford apartment earlier this week. His stepfather, charged with the murders, is in custody after a four-day manhunt by federal authorities.

According to the FBI, Tobias and his stepfather, 54-year-old Billy Jo McLean, were located 1,100 miles from Sanford in Oldham County, Texas. McLean was arrested during a traffic stop just before midnight Thursday.

It happened outside the Royal Inn in Wildorado after Tobias had a nearby restaurant owner call 911. That woman, Dianna Donathan, told ABC11 that Tobias discovered the news about his slain mother and sister online when he headed to Facebook for a free dessert offer.

His stepfather was sleeping in the motel next door, and had previously forbidden him access to Facebook during what Tobias believed to be a birthday road trip.

The Oldham County Sheriff Department said Tobias was taken into Child Protective Services custody and is currently awaiting transport back to his maternal family members. An extradition date for Billy Jo McLean is unknown at this time.

"Unbelievable. That's God. That's definitely God. That's all I can say," said Carla Hooker, TaShonna's dance teacher and close family friend. "[I'm] overjoyed and thanking God that Tobias is safe and he's [McLean's] been captured."

A criminal complaint filed in federal court on Tuesday charged McLean with two counts of first-degree murder after the bodies of Calandra and her 13-year-old TaShonna were found by firefighters Monday afternoon in the 900 block of Clark Circle when a resident called 911 to report she smelled a strong odor of gasoline.

According to the criminal complaint, Calandra's body was found bound with duct tape and the child's body was found in a bathtub. There was no sign either had been shot.

The documents also said Billy Jo McLean allegedly kidnapped Tobias, who is believed to have health-related issues.

Authorities in Sanford, along with the FBI, had been searching for the pair since the family's apartment suffered smoke and minor fire damage.

Billy Jo McLean was seen purchasing gasoline at a store with a credit card before the fire and was seen going into the apartment with a gas can and coming out without it, according to the complaint.

Facebook led to the discovery

Dianna Donathan, owner of the Windy Cow Cafe in Oldham County, Texas, said Tobias McLean walked into her restaurant around 6:30 p.m.

He'd come over for a to-go sandwich as his stepfather, Billy Jo, slept in the motel next door.

Donathan told Tobias about the free dessert offer on Facebook, so the 17-year-old went over to get a phone from the motel.

When he returned to the restaurant around 8:15 p.m., Donathan said he logged onto Facebook and was overcome with emotion.

"Tears were just rolling down his face," Donathan said. "He was shaking. He said 'Call 911.'"

Tobias began to see messages flooding the Facebook timeline, telling him to get away from Billy Jo because his stepfather had killed his mother and sister.

Until that moment, Tobias told Donathan that Billy Jo hadn't let him get on Facebook to tell friends and family about their special road trip. It was the road trip for Tobias's birthday that Billy Jo told him his mother already knew about. It was the road trip that had taken them from Virginia and D.C. where the FBI suspected Billy Jo had driven, all the way to Texas.

The Oldham County Sheriff came over to the restaurant, and Child Protective Services took Tobias as Billy Jo was arrested near the motel.

Authorities said he didn't put up a fight, but Tobias spilled the story.

The criminal complaint, per family members, described Tobias as mentally challenged and in need of medication.

In an interview Tuesday, his maternal grandmother eluded to his possible state of mind.

"Please call the police if you see this teenage boy," said Joann Jackson. "He's 17 years old. He don't know what's going on with his mom and them."

Donathan said Tobias described seeing fire trucks going toward his apartment as he and Billy Jo left town.

Then, the teen said Billy Jo had been covered in blood early on in the trip from a burn in his leg. Tobias smelled gasoline in the car. He heard his sister scream, or at least he thought he did. Donathan said he would explain the events as having happened in dreams, but also say he'd heard of bad things happening.

"I kept thinking he would say 'Help me. I know he did it,' but he never did," said Donathan.

"He didn't want to believe it," she continued. "I think he knew, but he didn't want to know."

CPS was arranging transport for Tobias as his family members and friends thanked God for his safe return.

One aunt responded to ABC11 in a text saying "Hallelujah!!" once the news was confirmed Friday morning.

"I'm just glad we were here to help him," Donathan cried.

Moving Forward

The students at Karla Kids dance studio are preparing a tribute for TaShonna should they be asked to pay homage at her upcoming funeral service. They may perform to one of her favorite gospel songs, "Take Me to the King."

"The week seemed like a horrible nightmare until this morning, and during practice this week some of the kids had been expressing their thoughts," said Hooker. "They'd been sending out prayers. We do a prayer circle at the end of rehearsal. They've been sending out prayers for the family. They expressed how much they missed TaShonna. It's been rough."

Meanwhile, funeral services will be held Sunday for Calandra and TaShonna at Sanford's civic center.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover funeral costs. Click here to donate.

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