UNION COUNTY, S.D. — A Missouri school teacher and her 11-year-old daughter were killed in what authorities confirmed was a double homicide in their home on Aug. 22, Law Officer reported. Investigators identified a suspect, and while looking for him, the 45-year-old truck driver reportedly committed two additional murders before police found him dead in South Dakota of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Union County Sheriff’s Office announced.
J.T. McLean was sought and on the run after being charged in the Aug. 22 first-degree murders of Allison Abitz, a 43-year-old teacher, and her 11-year-old daughter, Jozee Abitz. The mother had a long-term relationship with her accused killer, according to KRCG.
Investigators said Allison Abitz was found strangled in bed. Jozee Abitz was located drowned in a bathtub in their home. The murders occurred in Boone County, Missouri, and discovered after a welfare check was requested by a concerned family member, Law Officer reported.
Once McLean was identified as the suspect, at least six law enforcement agencies were involved in the manhunt, eventually helping track him to South Dakota, where he was said to have family ties, according to KELO.
During an unspecified date after fleeing the Boone County crime scene, McLean allegedly killed two other people in Miller County, Missouri. The victims were identified as Daniel Stephan, 74, and Pamela Stephan, 64. The Boone County Sheriff’s Office said the Stephan’s were connected to McLean through one of his ex-wives, according to KMIZ.
KOMU reported that Miller County deputies conducted a welfare check on Sept. 8 near the Lake of the Ozarks and found the Stephan’s dead. Authorities have not provided particular facts regarding the second double homicide attributed to McLean.
On Wednesday, Boone County authorities said they “just recently received information that McLean had recently acquired a dark colored motorcycle, which was not titled or registered in his name.”
“This motorcycle is unaccounted for and it is believed McLean likely fled the area on the motorcycle,” the sheriff’s office said, Law & Crime reported.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office announced the manhunt for McLean had come to an end at a South Dakota motel late Wednesday night:
On 9-8-21, at approx. 2130 hours the Union County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the US Marshal’s, Sioux City, Iowa that J.T. McLean, 45 years, was wanted out of Boone County and Miller County, Missouri for the murder of 4 people. Mr McLean was believed to be in a vehicle he had stolen from one of the victims. ON STAR assisted in locating the vehicle in a motel parking lot in the Dakota Dunes area. It was known that he had family around the Dakota Dunes area. The family was contacted and moved from the residence to a safer location. Together, the following agencies assisted the Union County Sheriff’s Office: US Marshal’s Sioux City, Iowa, Department of Criminal Investigation SD, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Sioux City, Police Department and North Sioux City Police Department in making contact with the motel and locating Mr. McLean in his vehicle. Nonlethal means were used and officers received no response from Mr McLean. A drone was deployed over the vehicle and Mr McLean was found deceased by self-inflicted gun shot wound.
According to the Columbia Missourian, Allison Abitz was a teacher at Bush Elementary in Fulton, Missouri. Her daughter, Jozee, was a gymnast and member of a local acrobatics team.
A family friend, Katie Guinn, told KOMU that the victims were “free-spirited and fun loving.”
“We always had this ease of conversation and this connection of having certain struggles in our adult lives,” Guinn said of Allison. “[Jozee] was just so ready for anything. Just wide eyed and excited all the time. I’ve never seen a wider, happier smile on a child. That girl was always grinning from ear to ear and happy.”
An Aug. 25 statement from Fulton Public School Superintendent Ty Crain expressed deep sorrow over the murders of Allison and Jozee.
— Fulton Public Schools (@FPSHornets) August 25, 2021
“Allison was a beloved staff member, exemplary teacher, and loving mother. Jozee was a kind, talented, and caring individual who was a friend to all,” the statement said. “Our hearts broke at the news of these losses.”