David Byron Russ

Gainesville Daily Register

Authorities in Seminole County, Fla. are reaching out to Gainesville and other Cooke County residents to try to help find a murder suspect.

David Byron Russ, 45, is a suspect in the murder of 58-year old Florida woman Madeleine Leinen.

Seminole County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Carrie Hoeppner said Tuesday afternoon she contacted Gainesville Police Chief Carl Dunlap about Russ after he was reportedly spotted within the past three days in Gainesville, driving the victim's 2003 Burgundy Toyota Camry with a Florida license plate I17UGL.

“We were contacted Monday by a local resident who stated that he believes a man who was visiting him was wanted in Florida,” Dunlap said Wednesday.

He said the man told police he and Russ were friends at one time.

“The man came on Friday, May 11, stayed with the resident in Gainesville until May 13 and then left and has not been seen since,” Dunlap said.

“The friend contacted us and we contacted Seminole County Sheriff’s Department and found out the particulars on the suspect and the crime.”

Dunlap said Gainesville officers have “pretty much searched the city looking for this person and have not been able to locate him.”

Investigators say they believe Russ to be extremely dangerous.

Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Russ on charges related to the murder of Leinen, a resident of Longwood, Fla. who was found dead in her home May 8.

“We are not issuing any details on the murder, but it does appear there was no relationship with the victim and the suspect,” Hoeppner said early Wednesday, adding that the motive for the murder is not clear.

Russ is, apparently, a Denton County resident with ties to north Texas, Hoeppner said.

Officers discovered Leinen’s body in her home after a friend grew worried about the woman when she did not show up for work and could not be reached by phone. Leinen’s friend then sent her husband to Leinen’s home.

“The man discovered that the residence was secured and made a forced entry into the home. Once inside, he located the body of the victim,” a press release from Seminole County Sheriff’s office stated.

Russ was identified as a suspect after investigators obtained a photo of him at an ATM in the Apopka area trying to use the victim’s ATM card just a few hours after she was last seen on May 7.

Investigators were first led to Russ after officers from the Longwood Police Department told them they tried to stop a vehicle in the Longwood area May 6.

Authorities later found the vehicle abandoned near the victim’s home.

After seeing a photo obtained from the ATM, officers from the Longwood Police Department determined that the man who fled from them was the same man in the ATM photo.

Information found in Leinen’s Toyota Camry led investigators to Russ, according to press releases from Seminole County Sheriff’s Department.

Several witnesses who saw Russ at the ATM also came forward after seeing his photo through the media.

Hoeppner said her office is working with Gainesville Police as well as authorities in Denton County and Lubbock to try to find Russ.

“Anyone who knows Russ’s whereabouts, has seen Russ, or has information regarding this crime is asked to call 911 or their local authorities,” Hoeppner said. They may also call the CrimeLine at 800-432-TIPS.

Seminole County, Florida, is located northeast of Orlando, west of Cocoa and Daytona Beach, Florida.

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