Tenn.: Good policing gave interstate chase a perfect ending

 Mike O'Neal, Staff Writer

Copyright 2006 Chattanooga Publishing Company 

The escape in Kansas two weeks ago was planned and executed nearly to perfection.

But a perfect combination of coincidence and solid police work led to the bloodless capture Friday night of fugitives John Manard and Toby Young, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol officers involved in their arrest.

"In a police officer's view it was the perfect ending," said THP Sgt. Patricia Riggs. "No troopers, no U.S. marshals, no civilians and no suspects were injured -- that is a perfect ending."

Sgt. Riggs was driving one of seven THP cruisers that were involved in the sometimes-high-speed chase on Interstate 75 that ended when the escaped murderer and his companion crashed their pickup truck.

Troopers were called to help pursue the couple north on I-75 after undercover U.S. marshals spotted the pair walk from a bookstore near Hamilton Place.

"We played catch-up from Bradley County in heavy traffic," Sgt. Riggs said.

The trooper described the chase northward as "sort of slow speed" with bursts of driving 80-85 mph in traffic that sometimes would force both the chased and chasers to slow to about 60 mph.

Federal agents were aware that the wanted couple were using a cabin in Alpine, Tenn., about 90 miles north of Chattanooga as a hideout and were meeting about how to take them into custody when they spotted their prey.

U.S. marshals in two unmarked cars soon were joined by six THP cruisers and a THP helicopter, Sgt. Riggs said.

She said such support was available because all THP troopers are on duty Friday night, and the helicopter with its bright searchlight was on hand for a planned move against the cabin near Cookeville, Tenn.

"If it had not happened on Friday, there would have only been two troopers available," the sergeant said.

Troopers worked in pairs to impede civilian traffic following the fleeing pickup truck and to slow its flight. At some point near mile-marker 52, cars and helicopter converged on the suspects, Sgt. Riggs said.

At mile-marker 65 near Sweetwater, Tenn., Mr. Manard decided to cut across the median and reverse his run from the law, the sergeant said.

"Trooper John Allen and I followed," she said.

Trooper Gray Gibson said he joined the chase at Paul Huff Parkway in Cleveland, Tenn., and had just caught up with the suspects when they decided to head south.

"It is really hard to get away when you have a helicopter," the trooper said.

Two troopers had crossed the highway at mile 60 and cleared traffic ahead of the now-southbound traveling fugitives who were still being pursed by troopers.

When Mr. Manard tried to pull around the blocking cruisers in the right hand emergency lane he veered from the road, and lost control of the truck, troopers said.

"It was like he did a left turn and went across the 36 feet of pavement at a high rate of speed," Sgt. Riggs said.

Trooper Gibson said the truck stopped when it smashed into and through a pine thicket in the median.

"He went head-on with that Chevrolet bowtie right into a tree," Trooper Gibson said.

The helicopter had kept its spotlight trained on the fugitives throughout the chase and troopers said they did not need to use flashlights when the truck stopped moving.

"It tore that truck to pieces," Sgt. Riggs said. "Seat belts and airbags kept them from being hurt."

Before Mrs. Young was booked at McMinn County Jail, she was treated at a local hospital, officials said.

Mr. Manard was examined at Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga before he was booked at Hamilton County Jail, officials said.

Federal authorities said Mr. Manard was serving a life sentence in a Lansing, Kan., prison when Mrs. Young helped him escape.

Mrs. Young, a volunteer for an organization that has inmates train animal shelter dogs so they can be adopted, smuggled the convicted murderer from the facility by hiding him inside a dog kennel, prison officials said.

Since fleeing Kansas, receipts found by federal authorities indicate the couple had been shopping and to a movie.

Trooper Gibson summed up the chase, saying, "It was about as good as you expect from somebody on America's most wanted. He didn't have anything to lose."

When asked what he did after the fugitives were taken into custody, the trooper said he began filling out paperwork regarding Mr. Manard's crash.

Mr. Manard is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County General Sessions Court at 8:30 this morning for an extradition hearing, according to corrections officers at the Hamilton County Jail.

Mrs. Young is to appear in McMinn County General Sessions Court for a similar hearing at 10 a.m., officials said.

E-mail Mike O'Neal at moneal@timesfreepress.com 

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