ST. GEORGE — A man who allegedly broke into a St. George home on Christmas Eve while the owners were out of town and then led police on a chase in a stolen vehicle made his initial appearance in court Thursday.
Just after 5 p.m. Sunday, police responded to a residential burglary in St. George where it was reported that an unknown individual had forced entry into a home by smashing a large window.
The suspect later exited the home carrying a black bag which appeared to contain items stolen from the home, according to a probable cause statement filed by the St. George Police Department in support of the arrest.
No one was inside the residence at the time as its occupants were reportedly out of town.
Before the suspect left the scene of the alleged crime, a quick-thinking neighbor who witnessed the incident took a photo of the suspect’s license plate and vehicle – a blue Hyundai Santa Fe – and called police.
Police contacted the homeowners who confirmed that the house should have been secured and that nobody was supposed to be inside, the arresting officer wrote in a sworn statement.
At approximately 6:28 p.m., a St. George Police sergeant located the suspect vehicle traveling south on River Road near 680 South, according to the statement. The sergeant observed the driver make an improper left turn onto Riverside Drive, cross the fog line and jerk back over before accelerating the vehicle to more than 50 mph in a 40-mph zone.
“The roads were wet and it was raining heavily,” the arresting officer stated. “This driving was believed to be reckless based on the three or more moving violations to include speeding, too fast for conditions, improper lane of travel and improper turn.”
After additional officers were able to respond and assist, police initiated a stop of the vehicle at 950 N. 3050 East in St. George, according to the probable cause statement. However, the driver of the vehicle continued north and turned right onto Telegraph Street in Washington City before turning into the parking lot of Zion’s Bank.
“There were approximately six or seven police vehicles with their emergency lights and sirens on from the time the original stop was attempted,” the officer stated. “… The driver willfully ignored the many red and blue emergency lights and sirens and continued to drive.”
When the driver attempted to exit the parking lot, an officer blocked the exit with his patrol car and the driver subsequently stopped the car, according to the statement. The driver verbally identified himself to police as 49-year-old Fernando Torres-Sanchez, but police were unable to confirm his identity because he had no identification on his person.
After a search warrant was executed on the vehicle, police identified the registered owner of the car who confirmed the vehicle had been stolen, the report stated.
During an interview with police, Torres-Sanchez allegedly admitted to taking the vehicle at approximately 4 p.m. Sunday, but denied knowing anything about the residential burglary, according to the statement. However, officers recovered a black bag from inside the stolen car that was consistent with the description provided by the witness.
The homeowners positively identified the black bag, along with a modem and a router found inside, as items that had been stolen from their home. Damage to the homeowner’s window, blinds and doorknob was estimated to be around $475.
Torres-Sanchez was arrested and transported to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
The Washington County Attorney’s Office filed an information in 5th District Court accusing Torres-Sanchez of two second-degree felony counts of burglary of a dwelling and theft; a third-degree felony of failing to stop at the command of police; three class B misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief, theft by receiving stolen property and reckless driving; and an infraction for not having his driver’s license.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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