One week before a Kentucky truck driver spotted a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice with New Jersey tags at an interstate rest stop, he had used his CB radio to organize an impromptu gathering of truck drivers to pray for an end to the sniper crisis.
When Ron Lantz, 61, pulled his 18-wheeler into an interstate rest stop in rural Myersville, Md., at 1:54 a.m. on Oct. 24, he said something just clicked. Spotting the car that had been used by the Washington-area sniper suspects, he recalled the police news conference he had just heard on the radio. He called 911 and within hours had become a hometown hero in Ludlow, Ky., where he has lived for 40 years and attends the Covington Central Nazarene Church.
"He was driving down I-70 and got on his CB radio," Rev. Larry Dillon told World Tribune.com. "He told our congregation he was overwhelmed by the response." Lantz organized the truckers' prayer meeting on Oct. 16, just one week before the sniper suspects' arrest.
Lantz said some 50 truckers gathered at the pre-arranged stop near Baltimore on Oct. 16 and prayed for America, for an end to "evil in our country" and for the arrest of the snipers who had been terrorizing the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Lantz said he heard a description of the car while listening to the "Truckin' Bozo" radio show, which originates from WLW-AM in Cincinnati. Host Dale Summers told listeners about the car police were searching for in the Washington area.
"I seen one guy sleeping in the car and one guy standing beside the car when I pulled in," Lantz said Thursday afternoon after returning to Ludlow, Ky., his hometown of 4,400 across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.
Lantz said he stepped out of his truck to use the men's room, but climbed back in to call 911 on his cellphone. He and another trucker used their rigs to block the exit of the rest stop, he said.
"Not even 15 minutes later, the FBI , ATF, everybody showed up," he said.
John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were arrested a short time later, and Lantz continued on his way.
When he arrived at his home on Poplar in Ludlow, he was greeted by family, friends, neighbors and TV cameras.
Early Friday morning, he returned to WLWT for appearances on NBC's "Today" show and MSNBC, followed by interviews with other local and national TV outlets.
Lantz, a trucker for 36 years, drives for Indianapolis-based Thompson Trucking, a contractor for Bass Trucking in Flemington, N.J. He stops regularly at the rest stop during his twice-a-week drives hauling parts for storm doors and windows between Delaware and Ohio.
According to friends from the Covington Central Church of the Nazarene in Covington, KY, Lancz is a model church member. Even though he is an over-the-road truck driver, Lancz is a faithful attendee, bringing his five-year old granddaughter to church every Sunday that he is not on the road. Lancz is the leader of the local men's fellowship group.
Lantz's story touched off a frenzy at the Kentucky home he shares with his wife and adult daughter and granddaughter.
Reporters began showing up on the Lantzes' doorstep and ringing their telephone for interviews.
"It's unbelievable to me," Lantz's wife, Ruth, said. "I can't comprehend. We live a very quiet life here. We have an unlisted number. Now everybody has it. Everybody in the country is calling."
"We're just ordinary people here, just living in an ordinary city," Lantz's sister Ronda Zwick said. "This is very different for us." Neighbor Tony Ledonne said he knows Ron is "one of the good guys," but never imagined he'd have a hand in solving an alleged murder spree. "It just goes to show how small of a world it is," Ledonne said. You have a sniper shooting in D.C., and a local neighbor in Ludlow, Ky. helped capture him."