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Fugitive spotted in homemade trailer after 3-day manhunt

Branden Conrad Miesmer, 26, was captured Wednesday evening after a deputy spotted the 10-by-8-foot trailer’s open door


Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s deputies escort murder suspect Branden Meismer, the subject of a three day man hunt north of Helena, Mont., into the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

By Matt Volz
Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — Montana authorities found an exhausted and suicidal fugitive holed up in an abandoned homemade trailer littered with rat droppings, ending a three-day search for the man accused in a shooting death, officials said Thursday.

Branden Conrad Miesmer, 26, was captured Wednesday evening after a deputy spotted the 10-by-8-foot trailer’s open door in a ravine in the Hauser Dam area 20 miles north of Helena, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said.

Miesmer is charged with killing Cody Steve Bruyere, 26, in Great Falls, and is suspected in two carjackings. He made a court appearance by video Thursday from jail, where he declined a judge’s offer to appoint an attorney.

Justice of the Peace Michael Swingley read Miesmer the Cascade County warrant for his arrest. Swingley informed him that bail had been set at $1.5 million and he would be transported to Great Falls to face a deliberate homicide charge.

Miesmer took refuge in the trailer Wednesday after skirting more than 100 law-enforcement officials searching the hills surrounding Black Sandy State Park, Dutton said.

He had wrapped his bare, blistered feet in clothing after losing his sandals at the onset of the chase. He had not eaten or had anything to drink in three days and appeared to be at the end of his rope, the sheriff said.

“He couldn’t take it anymore,” Dutton said Miesmer told him. “He was tired, thirsty, and this was going to be his last day.”

Miesmer was armed with a .40-caliber handgun, but he did not resist arrest when the SWAT team descended on the trailer, the sheriff said.

Officials had been going door to door and searching for Miesmer by ground and air. The manhunt covered the hills north of Lincoln Road between Interstate 15 and Hauser Dam Road, a rural area with year-round homes and seasonal cabins.

A man and woman reported that Miesmer forced them to drive him to Helena, where he carjacked another vehicle Monday morning and drove toward Black Sandy State Park near Hauser Dam, authorities said. Miesmer was found less than 2 miles from where he left the car, the sheriff said.

He was being held at the Lewis and Clark County jail after being treated at a hospital.

Miesmer was under investigation for drug trafficking, Cascade County Attorney John Parker said in court documents. The shooting victim also was believed to have been involved in drug sales.

Bruyere was shot once in the head, and a .45-caliber casing, marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found nearby, according to charging documents.

Lewis and Clark County sheriff’s officials said Miesmer had a Facebook account under the name of Branden Alexandria. The account shows pictures of Miesmer and included posts that said he moved to the Phoenix area in 2013 and has family in Great Falls.

Other posts said he is an Army veteran, that he had worked on oil rigs in North Dakota and was pursuing a rap career using the name XTA-C.