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Fugitive Pa. sex felon, wife, jailed in alleged kidnapping ruse

NEW CASTLE, Pa. - A Pennsylvania man whose wife allegedly faked his kidnapping so he could avoid sentencing on child-sex charges has been jailed along with her after he was found hiding in an attic crawl space at their home, police say.

The alleged conspiracy by Larry and Michelle Cragle unraveled Wednesday when New Castle police found 37-year-old Larry Cragle in the crawl space, hidden by some wall insulation and household items stacked in front of it.

Court records show a Lawrence County judge revoked Larry Cragle's bond July 6, five days after he failed to show up for sentencing for convictions on statutory sexual assault, rape and other charges involving children ages 13 and 9. Cragle potenially faces decades in prison when sentenced.

His 31-year-old wife was arrested Wednesday, too, on charges of conspiring to help him avoid apprehension, false reports to police, and tampering with physical evidence.

A week before Cragle's sentencing, his wife called police to report that three men forced their way into the couple's home, sexually assaulted her and then kidnapped her husband, police said. Michelle Cragle told police the kidnappers bound her with duct tape and cut off some of her hair, and police did find wads of her hair and duct tape in the living room.

But police also found no sign of forced entry and said semi-dried blood they found on the kitchen's ceiling and walls - supposedly the result of a violent struggle with Larry Cragle - appeared to have been applied with a paint brush.

Police became more suspicious after finding Larry Cragle's wallet on the mantle, but none of his clothing or shoes in the house. Police also didn't find drag marks or blood outside the house, though they say they did find a receipt for a wilderness survival first aid kit upstairs.

On Wednesday, New Castle police Chief Bobby Salem said police believe Larry Cragle had been hiding in the woods before returning to his home, where the couple was arrested.

Cragle had dyed his hair and was growing a beard. His wife had dyed her hair, too, leading police to believe they may have been planning to flee.

Larry Cragle faces new charges of flight to avoid apprehension and defaulting on a court appearance. His attorney didn't immediately return a call for comment Thursday. Court records don't list an attorney for Michelle Cragle.

CBS Pittsburgh reports Michelle Cragle was also previously accused of sexually assaulting the same two children as her husband. The couple was also accused of taking nude photos of the children, but that charge was later dropped.

New Castle, where the couple resides, is about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

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