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Accused sex offender drowns in Flathead's North Fork

by The Western News
| July 5, 2024 7:00 AM

A North Carolina man with several warrants for his arrest, including child sexual battery, apparently drowned in the North Fork Flathead River recently after fleeing from law enforcement.

According to a press release from Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino, on June 20, the office received a tip about the possible location of 35-year-old Steven Jeffrey O’Shields of Franklin, North Carolina, in the Kalispell/Evergreen areas. 

O’Shields had extraditable felony warrants for his arrest regarding various crimes, including burglary, theft of services, obstruction of law enforcement and sexual battery against a child, all out of North Carolina. He was also reported as a non-compliant sexual offender. Despite their efforts, deputies were unsuccessful in locating O’Shields after the initial tip.

At about 7 p.m. the next day, investigators received a report that O’Shields was at the Big Creek Campground in the North Fork area, on foot and carrying a sleeping bag. Deputies responded to the area and found O’Shields walking south on the North Fork Road, near mile marker 11. 

When confronted, O'Shields immediately fled into the woods, eastbound toward the Flathead River, according to the news release. After a short foot pursuit, deputies saw O’Shields wading into the Flathead River, moving downriver to the south. O’Shields was beyond the reach of the deputies and they saw him struggling to stay above water before he went around a bend and out of sight just south of the Glacier Rim. Deputies continued searching for O’Shields.

At approximately 9 p.m., with the assistance of Two Bear Air Rescue, a body, later identified as O’Shields, was observed submerged in the water north of the Blankenship Bridge. Boat crews from North Valley Search and Rescue were able to recover the body and it was subsequently turned over to the Flathead County Coroner’s Office. 

June 24, the body was transported to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula for autopsy and identification. The Montana Department of Criminal Investigation is currently investigating this incident at the request of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.