ST. GEORGE — A Washington City man was arrested over the weekend for allegedly stealing a pickup truck in the middle of the night. Police found the truck heavily damaged and abandoned on Interstate 15 just south of the Utah-Arizona border following a rollover several hours later.
On Sunday, officers were dispatched to a residence in St. George after a man called 911 reporting that his pickup truck was stolen during the night. He told police the vehicle was no longer parked where he left it and that the front door to his residence was open and the keys to the pickup were missing, according to charging documents filed in support of the arrest.
Officers learned that a family member of the caller may have taken the pickup truck, since the relative knew where the keys to the truck were kept. The suspect was then identified as 26-year-old Cesar Fermin Tamayo-Vargas, who had reportedly borrowed the truck in the past.
Tamayo-Vargas had allegedly told another relative when he returned home later that morning that he had gone out for the night and crashed a truck. The suspect was covered in dirt and “seemed scared” when he got home, explaining to the relative that he received a ride home from a passerby who spotted him on I-15, according to charging documents.
When officers arrived at the suspect’s home in Washington City, they were met by Tamayo-Vargas, who was said to have answered the door wearing a shirt covered in dirt.
During an interview with police, Tamayo-Vargas allegedly said he went over to the family member’s house where he opened the front door and took the truck keys and then drove to Mesquite, Nevada. He reportedly explained he had borrowed the truck in the past, at times without asking, and said there had never been any issues with him using the truck before.
The suspect allegedly told police he was returning to Utah when he fell asleep as he headed north along I-15. He said he lost control of the truck as it rolled off the interstate, and then he waited for a passerby to stop and help him.
Officers in Utah verified that troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety had responded to a single-vehicle rollover on northbound I-15, just south of the Port of Entry, involving a Ford F-150 pickup truck, Arizona Department of Public Safety Trooper Thomas Callister said.
The crash was reported by a passerby shortly before 6 a.m. MDT, Callister said, adding they arrived to find the heavily damaged truck in an upright position several yards from the roadway.
“That pickup was sitting upright when we got there,” Callister said. “But it was clear that truck had gone on a very wild ride.”
When they found the truck abandoned, he said, they began a search of the immediate area for anyone who may have been ejected and injured during the crash, since they found evidence indicating the driver was likely unrestrained at the time the truck rolled. Finding nothing, they had the pickup towed to St. George. It wasn’t until later that troopers in Arizona got word the truck may have been stolen, but by then they had already cleared the scene, Callister added.
Later that same day, Tamayo-Vargas was arrested following his interview with officers at his home in Washington City. He was transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility facing two second-degree felony charges, including one count of burglary of a dwelling and one count of vehicle theft.
Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders 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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