As I write this, the manhunt for Billy Boyette Jr. is still in high gear — as is the freaking out over trying to capture this made-for-sweeps-month killer.

Boyette became a fugitive last Tuesday when he allegedly shot and killed two women in a motel in Milton, Florida, then went on the run from police. He is believed to have followed that heinous act by killing a woman in Lillian, Alabama, this past Friday and then shooting yet another woman in Beulah, Florida, Monday in order to steal her car.

Needless to say, police have been working nonstop to find this psycho and his female accomplice, Mary Rice. And given the relatively close proximity to the crimes, the Mobile and Baldwin areas have been on edge.

The local TV stations have been particularly active in reporting on Boyette and Rice, offering frequent updates as well as handy tips on how to behave during the manhunt. I think some of the stations have kind of conflated — to use a Brian Williams journalistic term — manhunt coverage and hurricane coverage. They approach it like it’s not a matter of IF Billy Boyette Jr. and Mary Rice come to Mobile, but WHEN, as if they’re a storm front or something. I almost expect the meteorologists to include a rundown on the most likely weather for Boyette and Rice to make a run for Mexico. (Insert your own wall joke here.)

In hurricanes we get tips like: Make sure you have batteries, water, a generator and three cases of beer per person. In a manhunt we get advice such as:

Lock your doors. (Makes sense.)

Keep cell phones charged. (Seems more weather related.)

Don’t go anywhere alone, but let someone know if you do. (Not sure how telling my friends I’m going to the Piggly Wiggly is going to keep a maniac from shooting me.)

Use the buddy system when you go places. (Um, didn’t he shoot TWO people to start this whole mess?)

Look under your car before climbing in. (Billy Boyette and Mary Rice are hiding under my car? Can I run over them if they are?)

It’s frightening stuff to say the least. A tomcat came out from under my car this morning and almost gave me a heart attack. Until that warning I’d given zero thought to the possibility fugitives might be lurking there.

Maybe my fears in that regard have been heightened a bit because I watched “Cape Fear” last week, and Robert De Niro’s psycho character used his belt to hang beneath Nick Nolte’s car and ride along undetected to follow the family to their houseboat miles away. So that’s not a made-up concern!

While I’m not trying to suggest this isn’t a big story, it does seem like some in the media have gone a bit overboard. One station I watched Monday night devoted roughly half of its news segment and three reporters to the manhunt. Perhaps it’s hard to blame them, since February is a ratings “sweeps” month and Boyette and Rice couldn’t be more made-for-TV.

With his blond goatee, Boyette looks exactly like someone who would play a psychotic killer in a Bruce Willis movie, and he’s clearly mastered the art of the dead-eyed stare while taking a mugshot. He appears to be a very bad hombre.

Mary Rice — really? — fits the role of his female cohort. We’ve had reports on the gap between her front teeth and how she may have dyed her hair. Frankly I’m amazed the stations have been able to hold back on the Bonnie and Clyde comparisons.

For whatever reason, Americans have a perverse interest in fugitives. From movies to real life, some of our most famous and infamous people are those who ran from the law and got away with it for some period of time. Obviously no one takes lightly what Boyette and Rice are alleged to have done, but gauging from the conversations most everywhere I’ve been in the past couple of days, people are fascinated by the story. One friend of mine admitted there’s an unusual adrenaline rush to having fugitives on the loose.

But Lord knows I can’t let the kids watch the local news right now or Billy Boyette would keep all of us up all night. I’m sure the raccoon who somehow occasionally climbs into the wall space would immediately sound exactly like a wanted criminal behind the sheetrock. While I could try to explain how illogical it is that Billy Boyette would have come to our house, I’m sure that would be a tough sell in the middle of the night. And no way I’m going out there to check!

On top of all of this, law enforcement officers are working like crazy to catch these two before they hurt or kill anyone, probably knowing it’s unlikely things are going to end peacefully. Luckily their jobs are complicated by tornado warnings and idiots posting fake sightings on the web. And you’d think being a fugitive in the time of the internet would be more difficult.

Hopefully by the time this newspaper hits the streets Wednesday afternoon, Billy and Mary will be in police custody, or otherwise no longer a threat to our community. I sure don’t want to see anyone else get hurt.

And I also don’t know how long I can deal with the idea a spree killer might be hiding under my car.