On Saturday night, Sept. 28, the owner of Blowing Cave near Cushman contacted the Independence County Sheriff’s Department concerning two trespassers.
The owner, James H. Miller of Bald Knob, told deputies at the scene that the cave was closed because he had rented it to a group out of Houston, Tex. that was there to video “some paranormal activity” in the cave, the incident report said.
Despite posted signs stating the cave was closed, Miller told authorities he encountered two unknown men entering the cave. The two men ignored the cave’s owner as he tried to stop them from going inside, and at the time of the deputies’ arrival, the two men had yet to return from inside the cave, the report said.
Miller also noted that two women were waiting in a vehicle for the two men to come out of the cave. Miller made contact with the women — identified as Stephanie K. Gibson, 27, of Clinton, and Jenifer Rebekah Bullock, 45, of Conway, and asked one of them to come and try to get the male subjects to exit the cave. When the duo failed to reply to the woman, Miller dialed 911, the report said.
Deputies attempted to begin searching inside the cave. After about 30 minutes, the deputies temporarily stopped the search due to the possibility of injury on the slick rocks and the long period of time it had been since they had been in contact with their supervisor while inside the cave, according to the report.
Later, after a radio dispatch from the group shooting the video inside the cave reported that “two lights” were coming toward them from the back of the cave, deputies went back inside to make contact with the male subjects, identified in the report as Joshua Lee Vanesch, 42, of Lonoke, and Christopher Robinson, 35, of Conway.
Upon locating Vanesch and Robinson, authorities say Vanesch ran back into the cave. After initially running from the officers and causing a brief struggle as he was being put in hand restraints, Robinson was taken into custody for fleeing on foot, resisting arrest, and criminal trespassing, the report noted.
As the incident unfolded, authorities talked to the female subjects about the two men. Gibson, noted in the report as Joshua Vanesch’s girlfriend, was taken into custody and later charged with obstructing governmental operations for lying to officers about Vanesch’s real name.
The NOMADS Cave Rescue Team arrived, and after a long search, found Vanesch the next day hiding in one of the rooms of Blowing Cave. Vanesch was taken to the hospital for minor injuries suffered while in the cave evading officers. When he was released from hospital care, he was taken into custody and charged with fleeing on foot and criminal trespass.
Sheriff Shawn Stephens said Vanesch also had two warrants for his arrest. One warrant was by the U. S. Marshals Office, and the other was out of Van Buren County.
For their help during the ordeal, Stephens commended the all-volunteer cave rescue team, the Cushman Fire Department, James Miller, and officers of his department working at the scene.
Sheriff Shawn Stephens (left) leads a man identified as Joshua Vanesch (center) out of Blowing Cave with Landon Downing, a member of the NOMADS Cave Rescue Team. / Images via Independence County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page.
Joshua Vanesch’s Sept. 29 booking shot via Independence County Sheriff’s Department
Get up-to-date local and regional news along with the latest sports and weather every weekday morning by listening to Gary B. and Ozark Newsline on Arkansas 103.3 KWOZ. White River Now updates are also broadcast weekday mornings on 93 KZLE, Outlaw 106.5, and 99.5 Hits Now. If you have a news tip or event to promote, email White River Now at email@example.com. Be sure to like and follow White River Now on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.