EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - A photo of a red car taken on Mount Herman Road turned out to be a crucial piece of the puzzle for investigators searching for the person threatening bikers with a hatchet.
The picture was taken by a friend searching for Tim Watkins, who went missing in that area on Sept. 14 and was found dead a few days later.
The friend said he thought it was strange that the car, sporting Indiana plates, drove by the search group more than once.
Monday, a Woodland Park police officer stopped a red Chevrolet Prizm with Indiana license plates. Daniel Nations, a 31-year-old convicted sex offender from Indiana, was behind the wheel, his wife and two kids in tow.
An arrest affidavit obtained by 11 News says Nations was in the car captured in the picture. Investigators say they wouldn't have found the vehicle so soon if it wasn't for the witness taking that photo.
Along with the photograph, several members of the public had described the same vehicle as being linked to a man threatening hikers and bikers with a hatchet.
"It was one of the key pieces, and it's something that came in over and over from different complainants in the menacing cases we saw up in Monument and the Mount Herman road areas," said Jacqueline Kirby with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. "When you've got a number of people corroborating each other’s stories without their knowledge, that's something we really have to take very seriously and we do."
Nations reportedly told investigators he did have a hatchet in the car but didn't threaten anyone, according to the arrest affidavit. He was also allegedly driving with a .22 caliber rifle, which is the same caliber used in Watkins' murder.
Nations was arrested after that traffic stop for illegally carrying weapons as a convicted felon. On Thursday the El Paso County Sheriff's Office announced they had officially charged him with felony menacing and reckless endangerment. The sheriff's office added more charges will be forthcoming.
He has not been named a suspect in the Watkins murder and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office does not yet know if the two cases are connected.
"Even though some of the evidence may seem to support the same person may be responsible for both, law enforcement doesn't have the luxury of speculation and using that for probable cause and charges, so we have to investigate," Kirby said.
Kirby stressed the office is as desperate to find the killer as the public.
"We know our community is desperate for an answer. We are desperate to put somebody behind bars for the murder or Mr. Watkins and also get this threat off the road, the person who's threatening individuals with a hatchet.
"... We are one step closer, but there's still a lot of work to be done."