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story.lead_photo.caption J.T. McLean

Authorities in South Dakota report a man suspected in the Missouri murders of a Fulton second-grade teacher, her daughter and two Miller County residents committed suicide.

J.T. McLean, 45, was found dead in a vehicle from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a release Thursday from the Union County Sheriff's Office in Elk Point, South Dakota.

In Missouri, the Miller County Sheriff's Office reported that McLean was wanted in connection with two homicides in that county.

On Wednesday, Miller County deputies were dispatched for a well-being check in the 300 block of Route D in Kaiser, where they found two deceased individuals. The victims were identified as Daniel Stephan, 74, and Pamela Stephan, 64.

Boone County Sheriff's Department Capt. Brian Leer said during a press conference Thursday afternoon that the Stephans were related to one of McLean's ex-wives.

"An unregistered motorcycle was found in woods near the victims' residence in Miller County, which is what we believe he left our area on," Leer said. "We think he may have been in Mid-Missouri this week before going to South Dakota."

Mid-Missouri authorities started searching for McLean on Aug. 22 after finding Fulton school teacher Allison Abitz, 43, and her daughter Jozee, 11, dead in their home just south of Columbia. Officials said evidence indicated Abitz had been strangled and the girl had been drowned. McLean was later charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of the mother and daughter.

McLean, who had been Allison's boyfriend, was believed to be in South Dakota. A truck that belonged to the Miller County victims was found to have been stolen from their property, and authorities said McLean was believed to be in that vehicle.

Leer said family members related to the Stephans lived in the area where McLean reportedly killed himself.

"ON STAR assisted in locating the vehicle in a motel parking lot in the Dakota Dunes area," the Union County sheriff's release reported. "The family was contacted and moved to a residence in a safer location."

Several law enforcement agencies assisted the sheriff's office in "making contact with the motel and locating Mr. McLean in his vehicle."

When there was no response from McLean, a drone was deployed over the vehicle, where he was "found deceased by a self-inflicted gunshot wound."

Leer said Thursday that Boone County was investigating the murders of the Abitzes, Miller County is investigating the deaths of the Stephans, and McLean's death is being investigated by authorities in South Dakota. They will continue to work together on their investigations and putting together a timeline of the crimes.

"The one thing that we believe ties these together is J.T. McLean," Leer said. "He is the only person we believe was involved in the murders. "We don't believe he's involved in any other cases in this area, but we had no indication he would go to Miller County and do what he did there," Leer added.

Leer said they had no motive determined for the crimes. He thanked the media and public for their help through social media on getting the word out about the case, although it only generated a few helpful tips and Leer said that was mainly due to the elusive way McLean traveled.

"Luckily, this is an odd case," Leer added. "We've got investigators who have poured their heart and soul into this investigation."

This page has been updated as more information became available.

EARLIER COVERAGE:

Boone County authorities Wednesday said the suspect in the murders of a Fulton second-grade teacher and her daughter may have acquired a motorcycle and fled the area.

According to a Boone County Sheriff's Department probable cause statement, deputies were dispatched at 10:58 p.m. Aug. 22 to a residence in the 7500 block of Lavender Drive in Columbia for a check of the welfare of Allison Abitz, 43, and her daughter Jozee, 11. A family member was concerned after being unable to reach Allison.

Deputies found Allison and Jozee dead in the house. Officials said evidence indicated Abitz had been strangled and the girl had been drowned.

J.T. McLean, who had been Allison's boyfriend, is considered the prime suspect in the case, authorities said. The Boone County Prosecuting Attorney's Office charged him with two counts of first-degree murder in the case and a warrant for his arrest was issued with bond set at $1 million, cash only.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Boone County Sheriff's Department announced investigators received information McLean had recently acquired a dark-colored motorcycle, which was not titled or registered in his name. The make, model and type are unknown for the motorcycle. The motorcycle is unaccounted for, and it is believed McLean likely fled the area on the motorcycle.

Anyone with information regarding a motorcycle that was recently sold or otherwise provided to McLean is asked to contact the Boone County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said McLean previously changed his name and has been known to go by the names of John McLean, Steven Nagy and Steven McLean. He is described as a white male with a fair complexion, is approximately 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs approximately 210 pounds. McLean has green eyes and brown hair. He was last known to have grown his hair out; however, he has been known to shave his head bald in the past.

Additionally, anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of McLean or the investigation is asked to contact the Boone County Joint Communications by calling 573-442-6131 or 311. Those wishing to remain anonymous may provide information anonymously by calling CrimeStoppers at 573-875-TIPS (8477).

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