Task force captures man on run accused of killing wife, shooting 2 others

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter , Lea Wilson - Digital News Editor

HOUSTON - A man accused of shooting and killing his wife, shooting a man to death Monday in northeast Harris County and shooting his neighbor Tuesday in northeast Houston was scheduled to appear in court Friday, following his arrest that ended a five-day manhunt. 

While Russell Cormier, 53, did not appear before the magistrate judge as expected, but the charges and details of the crimes he's accused of were read aloud in court.

"We were on a manhunt all week long," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales said.

The U.S. Marshal’s Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force found Cormier around 12:30 a.m. Friday at Gerber Park, where investigators said he was sleeping on a bench.

Investigators and U.S. Marshals got a tip Cormier was sleeping in the park. When they caught up with him, Gonzales said Cormier made a quick move.

"Did require him to be tased at the scene. He didn't sustain any serious injuries as a result of that," Gonzales said.

Gonzales said Cormier was already banged up from his time on the run, which was the reason given as to why he was absent during a scheduled appearance before a magistrate. 

VIDEO: Sheriff discusses arrest of Cormier

"We were able to act upon it (and) take him into custody. (He is) obviously a very armed and dangerous person, but was taken in," Harris County Sheriff's Senior Deputy Thomas Gilliland said.

Officials said Cormier was taken in and questioned.

A prosecutor read charges against Cormier, which included eyewitness testimony regarding the shooting of his estranged wife, 61-year-old Fannie McWhite.

"Evidently he had been going from place to place all week, not having anywhere to stay and finding wherever he could. He's talked to investigators but I won't get into details but he did tell investigators how and the particulars of what happened what caused this scene," Gilliland said.

The incident began Monday with McWhite being shot and dragged at the home she once shared with Cormier on Greencanyon Drive. According to court documents, a neighbor told an investigator that he heard Cormier and his estranged wife arguing Monday. He said he heard Cormier say, "I'm going to shoot your son."

"No, no," McWhite replied. 

Cormier said, "Well how do you like this?" The neighbor said he heard two gunshots.

VIDEO: Russell Cormier waves from back of patrol car

The neighbor opened his front door and saw Cormier dragging McWhite’s body toward the street on Greencanyon Drive, court documents said. The neighbor told investigators that Cormier left the body in the yard and took off in a black Toyota Tundra, which belonged to McWhite.

Another neighbor told police she also heard two gunshots and saw Cormier dragging McWhite's body. 

According to court documents, McWhite’s son said it was not the first time Cormier threatened to kill him. The son, who was home at the time of the incident, said he did not see the argument or the shooting.

He was not hurt.

After driving off  in McWhite's Tundra, police said Cormier went to his home in the 600 block of Shotwell in northeast Houston, where he collected some belongings and then set his trailer on fire, police said.

Two hours later Cormier went to the Superior Truck Care Center on Kindred Street, where police said he shot and killed 61-year-old Thornton Bivens as he drove up to report for work.

"They worked briefly together and may have had some kind of beef dating back a few years," Gonzales said of Bivens shooting.

Officers were called just before 4 a.m. Tuesday to the 6000 block of Shotwell after reports of another shooting.

They found a vehicle in the driveway riddled with bullet holes and the windows of the home shot out. One person was shot in the side, police said.

"We have every indication that the suspect waited outside of the home for him to come out when he shot him," Garcia said.

Police said Cormier confronted the victim with a shotgun loaded with bird shot, shot the man and ran into the woods.

The victim was taken to a hospital. He is expected to survive.

"He said, 'I will kill all of y'all. Anybody that's on Shotwell, I will kill them all,'" Jerome Lewis, a cousin of the victim, said. 

A neighbor told police that he tried to set the victim’s house on fire before running away.

Police searched the area with flashlights but did not find Cormier. Officers found two guns in the yard, a pistol and a rifle, investigators said.

Lewis said he's always steered clear of Cormier.

"He's threatened to kill Sam, he's threatened to kill Mr. Bruce down the street. He's threatened to kill me, and I'm like, 'Dude, OK.' So I just stay away from the dude," Lewis said.

Another neighbor said he was surprised to hear of Cormier's actions. The neighbor said Cormier always cleaned up the streets and cut people's trees. He said Cormier was a friendly neighbor. 

Cormier is charged with murder in the shooting death of his wife. Prosecutors said more charges are expected.

Cormier will undergo a mental health evaluation.

He being held in Harris County jail. His bond was set at $500,000.

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