02/12/2007

Road rage evolves into a big pot bust in Utah

By Ben Winslow
Deseret Morning News

A road rage incident led to what police are calling the largest drug bust in the history of the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

A Nebraska man was in jail and facing drug charges Saturday after being arrested late Friday night following a chase near St. George that topped 100 mph.

Sheriff's deputies said the pursuit began on I-15 when a pickup pulled behind the man's Toyota sedan.

"He thought the truck was shining its brights," Washington County Sheriff's Lt. Jake Adams said. "The truck was just set really high."

Police said the Toyota went into the next lane, slammed on its brakes and then pulled behind the truck, flashing its brights. A sheriff's deputy saw that and pulled the Toyota over.

"He says to the deputy, 'That guy was shining his brights,' and he wasn't," Adams said. "When (the deputy) said, 'I need to see your license,' the guy said 'see ya' and took off."

A chase ensued, reaching speeds of more than 115 mph on I-15. Deputies said every time they tried to spike the tires, the car would go into the median and change directions.

"We went back and forth six times," Adams said. "Every time we'd put out spike strips he'd turn around in the median and go the other way."

The chase finally ended near Toquerville when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper managed to spike the car's tires. The driver bailed out and was tackled by a trooper after a short chase. Inside the trunk of the Toyota, deputies said they found 250 pounds of marijuana. The pot has a street value of $500,000.

"It's the biggest seizure here that I'm aware of," Adams said.

Ralph Lyle, 48, was booked into the Purgatory Jail on investigation of drug possession and evading arrest. Bail has been set at $15,000.

Copyright 2007 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

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