Report of stolen toy-hauler in Dixie Downs area triggers extensive manhunt

File photo of a Utah Highway Patrol vehicle in St. George, Utah, Nov. 2, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Police say the discovery of a trailer packed with stolen snowmobiles and a motorcycle sparked an extensive search for three suspects that lasted well into the early morning hours Saturday.

Police say three snowmobiles and a motorcycle, all reported stolen, were found inside a stolen utility trailer, Washington County, Utah, April 12, 2019 | Submitted photo, St. George News

At 4:30 p.m. Friday a man called 911 to report that a snowmobile and utility trailer his family had reported stolen six weeks prior was observed in the Dixie Downs area of St. George being pulled behind a Dodge pickup truck.

The family member verified that the trailer’s license plate number matched the one reported stolen and began following the Dodge while updating dispatchers with their current location. The truck continued north from Snow Canyon Parkway to state Route 18 toward Veyo and after several miles pulled off along a side road heading toward Pine Valley.

Meanwhile, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper traveling south on SR-18 heard the broadcast and turned onto the side road. After spotting the truck, the trooper performed a traffic stop, UHP trooper Mike Murphy told St. George News.

As the trooper approached the truck, he observed two men and a woman inside, Murphy said, but before he reached the driver’s side window, the driver sped off. While the trooper initially pursued the Dodge, department protocols mandated that he stop the chase once the driver pulled off on a dirt road.

At that point, additional units were called in and a containment area was set up. Iron County Sheriff’s Office also requested assistance from Southern Utah University’s Aviation program to provide a helicopter crew for an aerial search of the area.

As the trooper made his way down the dirt road, he found the utility trailer abandoned on the side of the road with the hitch smashed into the ground.

“We think one of the suspects from the front of the pickup climbed through the truck’s window and disconnected the trailer while the pickup was still moving,” Murphy explained.

Troopers found three snowmobiles and a motorcycle that were all reported stolen inside the trailer, UHP trooper Jim Jessop said.

The owner of one of the snowmobiles was contacted and responded to the area where the trailer and other property was found abandoned.

An allegedly stolen utility trailer is found abandoned on the side of a dirt road, Washington County, Utah, April 12, 2019 | Submitted photo, St. George News

Not long after, SUU’s helicopter crew located the Dodge, which appeared to have been ditched at the bottom of a canyon approximately 2 miles southwest of Pinto. When troopers reached the vehicle, they determined it had become disabled on the dry riverbed where the two suspects left it before both they fled on foot.

In the meantime, a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter equipped with night vision and infrared tracking technology was launched from Salt Lake County to assist in the search for the fugitives, which Jessop said continued well into the night.

The aerial search was unsuccessful in picking up any heat signatures from the suspects in the area, Murphy said, due in part to the many cattle and other animals scattered throughout the region that made zeroing in on anyone nearly impossible.

At 11 p.m., a Utah Department of Natural Resources ranger observed a woman matching the description of one of the truck’s passengers walking along Pintura Road less than a mile east of SR-18, Jessop said.

The woman was arrested after a records check revealed she had four active warrants. She was booked into jail on the warrants only and has not been charged with any offenses relating to the pursuit.

“We don’t have anything solid telling us she was involved at this point,” Jessop explained. “That could change, but right now we think she was a passenger that was an unwilling participant in the pursuit but was hiding because she had warrants.”

Jessop said troopers have identified the two suspects who are still at large but are not releasing any additional information at this time as this is an active investigation.

This report is based on statements from police and may not contain the full scope of findings. 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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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.


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