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Manhunt Turns Into Rescue Attempt

 Manhunt Turns Into Rescue Attempt

By Crystal Howerton

Attempts to locate a white male subject wanted by the Edina Police Department for a traffic violation and subsequent chase have remained unsuccessful due to recent high water.

At approximately 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, July 26, 2008, Officer Tony Villame with the Edina Police Department attempted to conduct a routine traffic stop leading to a pursuit that went awry. The chase, which began with a stop sign violation at the intersection of 6th and Reed in Edina continued south of town on Highway 6. The 1997 full-size pickup turned east on County Road 279 and traveled approximately four miles, at which time the vehicles encountered water over the road. Proceeding, the subject’s vehicle reached the low-water crossing, commonly known as “Kennedy Bottom.” Officer Villame exited his vehicle and continued the pursuit on foot. Prior to exiting the patrol car, Officer Villame was able to read the license plate number of the vehicle, which will not be released at this time due to an ongoing investigation.

The subject stopped the truck in the crossing and exited the vehicle through the driver’s side window, which was at water level. The truck floated south with the current while the driver attempted to swim upstream. According to Edina Police Chief Roger Waibel, Officer Villame shouted at the subject to stop and come back, that he would help him (the subject). However, the subject continued fleeing and that is the last time Officer Villame laid eyes upon him, whose identity is still undetermined.

Officer Villame returned to his patrol car and radioed for assistance from the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Law enforcement searched for the man until approximately 4:00 a.m. at which time the search was postponed until daylight. Around 8:00 a.m., law enforcement returned to the scene with the Knox County Rescue Squad, Jim Hopkins and Les Cardwell, of Edina. Two motorboats proceeded upstream in a fruitless attempt to locate the missing subject. At noon, search attempts were abandoned and the vehicle had not yet been located. Sheriff Mike Kite returned to the scene on Sunday morning and viewed the cab of the truck protruding from the water approximately 75 yards downstream.

On Monday morning, “Kennedy Bottom,” which is fed by the South Fabius River, was again underwater and the vehicle could not be seen.

Upon further investigation, it is believed that the vehicle held numerous stolen catalytic converters and the driver’s involvement is suspected in an investigation conducted by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and the Hannibal Police Department. The vehicle’s owner, who is also under investigation and whose name has not been released, reported the truck stolen on Saturday morning. The truck, which is still immersed in water, is the property of the Edina Police Department and will be impounded upon its removal. At this time, law enforcement officials are at the mercy of the continuing rains, which make it unsafe to attempt removal of the vehicle or further search for the subject at this time.
If anyone has any information as to the subject’s identity or whereabouts, or has any information pertaining to this case, contact the Edina Police Department at 660-397-2251.