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GILCHRIST, Texas (AP) — If kidnap suspect Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was looking to hide from authorities, he picked what would seem to be a good spot with the remote Bolivar Peninsula, a finger of Gulf of Mexico barrier sand and scrub vegetation barely above sea level.
The island's beaches have served as a hiding spot for centuries: graves from one of the Houston area's most notorious mass slayings and a haven for the famed French pirate Jean Lafitte.
"We seem to be the end of the road," Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.
Matthew was arrested Wednesday as a suspect in the abduction of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. He waived extradition Thursday in Galveston.
His arrest — initially for refusing to identify himself to authorities — came after a phone tip from a resident who saw the 6-foot-2, 270-pound man with dreadlocks and recognized him from TV. A deputy then spotted him camped out on the beach.
It's not uncommon to see random tents on the barren beaches, nor for sheriff's deputies to encounter people who don't want to identify themselves, Trochesset said.
"We get lots of weird folks," Rob Faupel, 45, an air conditioning technician, said. "It seems like a good place to seek refuge. It's kind of remote."
Only one road leads to the peninsula from the mainland to the east, a two-lane state highway south of Interstate 10 that ends at the Gulf of Mexico and heads west toward Galveston. Repeated storms wiped out the old highway Texas 87 that bordered the seashore and led to Port Arthur and Beaumont at the far southeast corner of the state. Motorists coming from Galveston and Houston must take a 20-minute ferry ride across Galveston Bay.
As far as the campers, beach maintenance crew member Cliff Reichel said, "We don't bother them unless they flat out are doing something wrong."
Reichel, 62, of Galveston, recalled one woman who was noteworthy because she had puppets on stakes outside her tent. She stayed for five months, then abruptly left.
"You get people who stay a month at a time, a week at a time," his partner, Jacob Huffstetler, 25, of nearby High Island, added.
Becky Sosa, who works at Miss Nancy's Bait Camp in Gilchrist not far from the beach, agreed that Matthew might have easily gone unnoticed.
"He would fit right in," said the 54-year-old Sosa. "We get some strange ones that come through here. Some have stayed. It's like a magnet."
She thought it was possible that Matthew had bought cigarettes from her on Tuesday, but she couldn't be sure because it was a busy day with fishing customers. "I would have thought nothing about it," she added.
In the early 1970s, authorities recovered seven bodies from a Bolivar beach at High Island, one of three mass graves used by serial killer Dean Corll. His 28-victim killing spree ended when accomplice Elmer Wayne Henley Jr. killed him in August 1973.
"It's kind of scary," Jill Howard, 56, of Arlington, said, recalling the infamous killings while walking the beach Thursday with her stepdaughter. But she said she could understand how someone trying to avoid capture would head out to "this beach out in the boonies."
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