After smelling the fugitive’s underpants, the bloodhounds tracing the scent of Pedro Juan Hidalgo came to the same conclusion they reached hours before: the man on the run from Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputies was nowhere to be found.
But by mid-afternoon Wednesday, the U.S. Marshals Service picked up the trail and found Hidalgo 90 miles away at his home in Prairieville. After a 12-hour manhunt, Hidalgo, 24, was arrested without incident and charged with having sex with a 14-year-old New Iberia girl.
The chase began with an anonymous phone call. Sheriff Louis Ackal said authorities received a tip that Hidalgo had come to town for the midnight rendezvous.
Deputies investigating the 2800 block of Old Spanish Trail reportedly caught the two having consensual sex in Hidalgo’s vehicle. The encounter Wednesday marked their first in-person encounter, said Capt. Wendell Raborn. The two reportedly maintained contact over the past month via text and Internet messaging.
Hidalgo and the girl reportedly ran away as the deputies approached. Deputies caught up with the girl, but a shirtless Hidalgo reportedly outran the authorities. The Sheriff’s Office soon determined Hidalgo’s identity through his license plate number.
Though the fugitive was long gone, Sheriff’s Office bloodhounds were brought to the scene to follow Hidalgo’s scent. Around 11 a.m. Ackal received word deputies recovered a pair of Hidalgo’s “drawers” left in his vehicle, which were promptly given to the hounds to reinforce the scent.
Deputies set up a small staging area in front of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on Old Jeanerette Road. A helicopter hovered nearby, scanning the sugar cane fields across from the church. Deputies roamed the area armed with assault rifles.
The search was called off before 4 p.m. after authorities arrested Hidalgo at his home in Prairieville. Hidalgo reportedly called his wife to pick him up in New Iberia Wednesday morning.
Hidalgo was charged with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and resisting arrest by flight. Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile applies to offenders 17 years or older who have sex with someone older than 13 but less than 17 where the difference in age is more than four years.
His wife, Heather Hidalgo, was arrested on a Florida warrant for possession of heroin. She also faces obstruction of justice charges in connection with Wednesday’s chase.
Both suspects are awaiting transfer to the Iberia Parish Jail.