Man presumed dead is suspect in Catahoula bones case

Published 2:58 pm Thursday, November 4, 2010

ALEXANDRIA, LA. — A man from the Catahoula Parish area who was legally declared dead years ago is now the prime suspect in the kidnapping of a Las Vegas teenager whose bones were found recently near Harrisonburg.

The FBI announced Thursday that Thomas Steven Sanders is wanted on a federal kidnapping warrant.

Lexis Roberts, 12, of Las Vegas, was last seen riding in a car with Sanders and her mother Suellen Roberts near the Grand Canyon.

Email newsletter signup

A hunter discovered bones, later confirmed to be those of Lexis Roberts, on Oct. 8 in the woods.

The FBI confirmed Thursday that Lexis had multiple gunshot wounds.

Investigators obtained video of Sanders purchasing ammunition at a Las Vegas Walmart on Sept. 3.

“The ammunition Sanders purchased was consistent with the caliber weapon used during the homicide,” an FBI press release says.

Sanders grew up in the area of Catahoula Parish, said Robert King, the FBI’s supervisory senior resident agent in Alexandria. Sanders has family in the Catahoula area and family in Mississippi, King said.

In 1994, Sanders was legally declared dead in the state of Mississippi by family members.

“We now know that he is still alive and has ties to several states across the country,” the release says. “We have been able to obtain photographs of Sanders that illustrate how his appearance has varied over the last several years.”

But Sanders’ whereabouts are unknown, King said. Two behavior analysis units are working on the case with the FBI, profiling what Sanders’ next move may be. With family in the Louisiana-Mississippi area, it’s reasonable to wonder if Sanders has stuck around, King said.

“That’s the million dollar question,” he said.

But right now there are no answers.

The FBI continues to have contact with relatives of Sanders.

King said investigators are diligently working to locate Suellen Roberts as well. She is considered a victim, not a suspect.

Teams from the FBI, the Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana State Police have searched the area where Lexis was found, but did not locate her mother.

Suellen and Lexis were reported missing Sept. 5; Suellen’s mother told a Nevada TV station she feared the worst.

The last known sighting of the trio was as their vehicle entered the Grand Canyon, King said.

Sanders was driving a silver 2001 Kia Spectra with notable damage on the passenger side doors.

Sanders is missing his upper teeth and has only two lower teeth, sources say. He also is reported to have a tattoo on his chest of an unknown design and a scar on his abdomen.

The FBI believes, based on the most reliable recent physical description, that Sanders is a white male, age 53, who is 5-feet, 8-inches tall, 200 or more pounds with brown eyes.

Sanders has worked as a welder, a scrap metal collector, a night watchman, a pallet fabricator and a handyman.

The FBI believes it is likely that the Nevada license plate on the Kia Spectra may have been replaced, possibly with stolen plates, to avoid detection.

Sanders also has a history of exchanging vehicles through auto salvage yards.

Anyone who has information about these individuals whereabouts since Sept. 3 is urged to call the tipline: 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).