A 34-year-old staff sergeant on the U.S. Army’s 20 most wanted list, who fled the U.S. in January to avoid more than 40 counts of possessing child pornography and allegations of child rape, is now in Phnom Penh after fleeing Sihanoukville, according to General Sok Phal, director of the Interior Ministry’s immigration department.
“He is now hiding in Phnom Penh,” Mr. Phal said, going on to blame The Cambodia Daily for a fruitless trip by police to Sihanoukville, where Michael Edward Harris, the suspect, had been working as a dog trainer before disappearing on Wednesday.
“The Daily published a story and it caused him to escape from Preah Sihanouk,” Gen. Phal said, adding that his officers had “wasted gasoline” on the trip.
“I don’t have time to answer you everyday, why do you ask every day when we are investigating like this?” he added.
According to the owner of the apartment building where the suspect was staying, Mr. Harris had already fled before authorities traveled to arrest him after rumors began to circulate on social media that he was in the area.
Anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), which has also been investigating the case, said it had no new information on the whereabouts of Mr. Harris.
“So far, we don’t have any information about him. This morning we found somebody who looked similar to him in Phnom Penh but realized it was not Harris after verifying the pictures,” said Khoem Vando, APLE’s deputy director of field operations.
Mr. Harris, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, reportedly fled the U.S. for Cambodia in January after skipping bail in Orlando, Florida, where he faced trial for possessing child pornography.
His ex-wife, Denise Diaz, has promised a $2,000 reward to anyone who can bring Mr. Harris to the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.
On Friday, she appealed on Facebook for donations via the online fundraising website GoFundMe to raise the bounty.
“Money flushes the hiding out in Cambodia,” she wrote.