Utah Department of Public Safety

Highway Patrol - Taken Hostage

On October 9, 1965, Troopers Bill Himes and Leonard Jewkes were riding together, working US 50-6 east of Cresent Junction in Grand County. They stopped a speeding vehicle occupied by two males. The two troopers became suspicious and asked to search the vehicle. The occupants agreed and stepped from the vehicle. Upon opening the trunk, Trooper Jewkes found a bag of tools. Immediately, one of the occupants pulled a loaded pistol and stuck it in the ribs of Trooper Himes. Both Troopers were disarmed and walked at gunpoint to an area about 200 feet off the highway.

The two occupants were Ray Lindell Newton, 25, Odessa, Texas, and Sherrill Chestnut III, 25, Richfield, Utah. They had both recently been released from the Utah State Prison where they had been serving time for burglary and assault with a deadly weapon.

Trooper Himes urged the two felons not to commit murder. He later said, "I thought there was only a 50-50 chance of coming out of that alive." The two cons argued their next move. One felon wanted to "waste" the two cops while the other wanted to handcuff them to a telephone pole. During this heated argument, one of the cons fired a round into the ground, near the two troopers. After several minutes of disagreement, the two cons handcuffed Troopers Himes and Jewkes to a telephone pole. They then returned to the patrol car, drove it into a ravine, and disabled the police radio by firing several rounds from the officers’ duty weapons into the radio.

The two cons feared that the troopers had radioed their license plate to dispatch prior to making the traffic stop. Their fears were correct. The fugitives drove west and ran their car off the road, concealing it in a gully. They then attempted to hail a passing motorist, Mrs. Frances Foye, a Monticello schoolteacher returning home from a Utah Education Association convention in Salt Lake City. Mrs. Foye refused to stop and drove to Cresent Junction where she immediately reported the incident. Combined with this information and the lack of communications with Troopers Himes and Jewkes, the Utah Highway Patrol requested roadblocks in Grand, Emery, and Carbon County.

Meanwhile, the bandits succeeded in flagging down an eastbound car driven by William Eugene Radar and Wendell J. Wilkie, who were returning from National Guard duty at Tooele Army Depot. At gunpoint, these two soldiers were forced to turn westbound and drive through Green River. About 10 miles west of Green River, the two hostages came to a semi-truck parked alongside of the road. The driver, Leon B. Kerr, Milliken, Colorado, was asleep in the truck. He was awakened at gunpoint and ordered to drive the fugitives. The two soldiers were forced into the sleeper. One convict, Newton, rode in the sleeper while the other, Chestnut, rode in the passenger seat with a pistol leveled on the driver.

About 25 miles west of Green River, the truck was stopped at a roadblock. As Trooper Don Christensen asked for the truck driver’s license, he observed a knee sticking out of the sleeping compartment. When asked if there was anyone in the sleeper, the driver nervously stated, "No." Trooper Christensen told the driver to continue on for a check at the weigh-in station near Castle Gate. Wellington City Marshal Delon Atwood was riding with Trooper Christensen. Also at the roadblock was Trooper Frank Whipple and Carbon County Deputy Sheriff Ned McCourt.

All the officers were notified and began to follow the semi-truck. They were joined by Carbon County Deputy Sheriff Jay Fowler and Sunnyside City Marshall John Naylor. The officers planned their next move. The truck turned off US 50-6 onto Utah 123, which goes to Sunnyside. As the truck neared an outdoor movie theater just outside Dragerton, some 80 miles from where the troopers were disarmed, the officers surrounded the semi-truck and drew their weapons. The two fugitives released their hostages and surrendered without further incident.

Trooper Himes and Jewkes were later found by a motorist, still handcuffed to the telephone pole. They were both grateful to be alive. The troopers were lucky a second time when the motorist produced a set of bolt cutters and set them free. Knowing they had come extremely close to death, they both vowed that they would never again allow themselves to be taken hostage.

[Last Update - Friday, 20-Dec-2013 11:16:02 MST]