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Thomas Steven Sanders: "Dead" Man Arrested in Miss., Charged with Kidnapping

Thomas Steven Sanders, left, Lexis Roberts, right.
FBI New Orleans/ KLAS
"Dead" Man Arrested, Alive, in Miss. Charged with Kidnapping Nev. Girl
Thomas Steven Sanders, left, Lexis Roberts, right. (FBI New Orleans/ KLAS)

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Thomas Steven Sanders flew under the radar for nearly 16 years after being declared dead by his family in Mississippi, despite multiple arrests and even prison time, but when 12-year-old Lexis Roberts' remains were found by hunters in Louisiana, Sanders found out that it's not that easy to run from a kidnapping charge.

FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne said Sanders was taken into custody Sunday at a truck stop in Gulfport, Miss., and charged with kidnapping.

It all started when Lexis disappeared from Las Vegas in September, having last been seen Sept. 4 with her mother, Suellen Roberts, and Sanders, at the Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams, Ariz. Sanders can been seen on surveillance video in a Las Vegas Wal-Mart buying ammunition a day earlier.

A month later, hunters in Louisiana found Lexis' remains; she'd been shot several times with ammunition investigators say is the same type that Sanders bought from Wal-Mart.

Lexis' mother hasn't been seen since September. Lexis' family told investigators that she and her mother had met up with Sanders a few months before they disappeared.

According to court documents, Sanders abandoned his family in 1987 and was declared dead by a Mississippi court in 1994. Despite being declared dead, Sanders has been able to move around the country easily. According to investigators, he lived in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Nevada. He worked as a laborer, a welder and a scrap metal collector.

Sanders also racked up a lengthy criminal record without being identified as a dead man from Mississippi, including possession of drug paraphernalia and a number of traffic and motor vehicle incidents, all in Tennessee. He was sentenced to two years in Georgia for simple battery.

State and federal authorities have said some of the charges involved minors, but they refused to elaborate.

Catahoula Parish Sheriff James Kelly told The Associated Press on Monday that Sanders is cooperating with authorities.

"Right now we have a lot more questions than we do answers as far as his activity since we've been looking for him," Kelly said.

Louisiana authorities want to extradite Sanders to face charges there, though it's not clear how long that could take, Kelly said.

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