Not long after 12:30 a.m. today, sheriff's deputies escorted Ricky Ward from the back of a police van, up the steps of the North William Street side of the Wayne County courthouse and into the magistrate's office.

Ward, who had eluded law enforcement since March and had apparently spent much of the previous day hiding out in an abandoned house in Kinston, appeared tired and dirty.

His hands cuffed in front of him, his feet clutching jail house slippers, Ward denied knowing Justice Courtney Lyons or having killed anyone.

"Who is that," he said.

It was Lyons' vehicle ---- a red Ford Taurus ---- officials say Ward was driving when he sped away from deputies March 27 as they tried to stop and question him regarding a shooting in Goldsboro earlier that day.

Ward wrecked the car in a wooded area off of U.S. 70 West and escaped on foot.

A fruitless manhunt ensued resulting in an area school being placed on lockdown. The sheriff's office said at the time that Lyons, 22, had been reported missing out of Raleigh March 17, and had last been seen in Goldsboro around the 14th.

It was unknown at the time what dealings -- if any -- Ward might have had with Lyons that led either to his disappearance or to Ward possessing his car.

Ward allegedly drove that car to the Speedway at 1501 U.S. 70 West with a male and female passenger with whom he was meeting to potentially buy some shoes. A gun went off during the exchange and although no one was hit, police responded and began to search for the man later identified as Ward and the car later identified as Lyons'.

After slipping through deputies' grasps that day, Ward again managed to escape the next day from an area nearby where a 911 caller reported seeing a suspicious person. Deputies described having been close enough to hear someone moving, but they never laid eyes ---- or hands ---- on Ward.

Then, nearly a month later, a Dudley man gunned down in the backyard of a residence on Arrow Road brought new life to the search for Ward.

David Demarlo Thompson, 35, was shot and killed at about 9:30 p.m.

The next day, the sheriff's office issued a Code Red for the Mar-Mac area saying Ward was now a "possible" murder suspect.

Heavy downpours across the county prevented deputies from conducting a thorough search of the area, and despite the Code Red lasting into a second day, Ward again eluded capture.

Finally, on Wednesday at about 3:30 a.m., police in Kinston responding to a possible Ward sighting conducted a traffic stop on a truck reported stolen out of Wayne County.

The man they believed to be Ward fled to an area near Shine and Queen streets in Kinston and again the manhunt was on.

Kinston Police, Lenoir and Wayne County Sheriff's Offices and SWAT teams from each, along with the State Bureau of Investigation, the State Highway Patrol, the U.S. Marshal's Service Fugitive Apprehension Team, the SBI bomb squad, the N.C. Dept. of Corrections bloodhound tracking team, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and at least one helicopter unit all converged on the area to attempt to locate Ward.

This time there would be no escape.

Roughly 12 hours after the traffic stop in Kinston, Ward was taken into custody by SWAT in an abandoned house on Shine Street, according to press release.

Ward was in possession of a loaded semi-automatic pistol at the time of his arrest, the release said.

Ward is charged by three different agencies regarding the shooting at the Speedway in Goldsboro, the theft of Lyons' car and his disappearance in Raleigh, and in Wayne County for the murder of David Thompson.

Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce issued a written statement after Wards arrest congratulating all participating agencies.

"If this is not a case of agencies working together, you will never see one," Pierce said.

"When a person with this type of reputation is on the loose, I believe it is my responsibility to alert the public so that the citizens of Wayne County can take precautions for their safety."

Pierce went on to say that he hoped everyone involved would sleep more peacefully now that Ward is in custody.

As deputies led Ward up the courthouse steps and into the magistrate's office early this morning, he denied any involvement in killing either Thompson or, potentially, Lyons.

"I ain't killed nobody," Ward said.