Rangers search for wanted man in Great Smoky Mountains

Rangers search for wanted man in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

James Quilliams (source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park) James Quilliams (source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are searching the park for a Sevierville man wanted in connection to a murder in Pinellas County, Fla. Deputies there say he killed 48-year-old Teresa Compton at their home in Oldsmar and officials have issued a warrant for his arrest.

Investigators say James Quilliams, 40, may have been dropped off near Gatlinburg early Wednesday morning by a female companion. She was arrested for DUI at 6:45 a.m. by the Pigeon Forge Police Department.

Pigeon Forge officers then alerted area law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for Quilliams.

Rangers were still out patrolling Wednesday night and will be out until they've learned Quilliams whereabouts. More than a dozen rangers are searching trails and roads for him.

A check point was set up along Highway 441 with rangers alerting drivers heading into the Smokies danger could be lurking.

"We saw a couple park rangers setting off to the side in a pull off area and they weren't in the vehicles," said Brian Johnson visiting from Illinois.

Rangers are focusing their search in the Sugarlands area. "We have had visitor sightings of him throughout the morning on and off," said Dana Soehn with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Park officials believe Quilliams is on his own and likely not prepared for this cold weather, though they don't believe he is a major threat.

"The rangers don't believe that he exhibited any behavior that would be at a high risk to visitor safety. At this point we don't believe that he's armed with a weapon but everyone should be cautious," added Soehn.

Visitors are advised not to pick up hitchhikers and warning signs were up throughout the park.

Dylan Russell visiting from Loudon County says the search is alarming, but he still feels relatively safe.

"I don't consider it too much of a threat because a lot of things don't really happen in East Tennessee. You don't have too much of a buzz about some of that stuff," he said.

Quilliams is described as 6-feet-2 inches tall, weighing 215 pounds. He has short gray hair and a goatee.

He was last seen wearing a black trench coat, black dress pants and tennis shoes.

Anyone who may have seen someone matching Quilliams' description is asked to immediately contact local law enforcement agencies.

Park rangers are working in coordination with Pigeon Forge Police Department, Gatlinburg Police Department, Sevier County Sheriff's Office, and Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

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