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Semi truck driver is charged after chase that followed fuel driveoff

Troopers said Jesse DeJongh, 18, sped south in northbound lanes of U.S. 65 for 20 miles.

October 01, 2012|by Emily Wood, KY3 News | ewood@ky3.com

OZARK, Mo. -- The driver of a semi-tractor is charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer after a 20-mile southbound chase, much of it in the northbound lanes of U.S. 65, on Sunday night.  Jesse DeJongh, 18, was arrested early Monday, several hours after officers say he crashed his truck in southern Christian County and fled into the woods.

Greene County sheriff’s deputies started chasing DeJongh’s truck on U.S. 65 after employees of Hood’s Truck Stop near Bois D’Arc said he drove off with about $700 worth of stolen fuel.

It started as a slow night at Hood's.

"We write a fuel ticket; they bring it into us.  We put it in the computer. That's how the pumps get turned on,” said Tim Lakey, who was on duty.

One of those routine tickets turned into anything but routine.

"Then, of course, they fill up, and then they come in and pay, but he just didn't come in and pay," he said.

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Lakey says the driver of a big rig took off on Interstate 44 with a tankful of stolen gas.

"Well, $710.  We bought that fuel. And that's what it was: $710 dollars," said Lakey.

One of Lakey's longtime customers and friends took off after the truck, keeping Greene County sheriff’s deputies updated the whole way.  The customer says the truck driver eventually pulled into a parking lot.  He followed him, and the two had a short conversation.  The truck driver told his pursuer that he intended to go back and pay for that stolen gas, but he didn’t.

“This was actually a very unusual circumstance.  The way he was driving, I’ve never been involved in something like this,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Ivey Warren.

Troopers, police and deputies from two counties followed the fast-moving tractor trailer to U.S. 65, where they say the driver headed south.  On the southeast side of Springfield, the truck drove up on the Evans Road overpass and down the northbound onramp and continued southbound in the northbound lanes all the way through Ozark.

"I was told at one point he was driving southbound with his headlights off,” said Warren. 

"They (oncoming drivers) pulled over because of lights on emergency vehicles. They didn't see him (truck). They would’ve been hit had they not seen the emergency vehicles."

Ozark police officers tried to stop the truck on U.S. 65 with a spike strip about 10:25 p.m. The truck kept going and a Christian County sheriff’s deputy used another spike strip under the Highway EE overpass. 

That’s when the deputy says the truck driver swerved and tried to hit him in the median.  Cpl. John Burns fled out of the way, and estimates the truck missed him by five to 10 feet.  The truck ran over the spikes and continued southbound.

The truck final went off the road near Highway BB.  After a search, law enforcement officers found DeJongh around 4 a.m.

As for Hood's, they're just hoping to get that tank of gas back.

“We're a full service fuel stop and you can’t punish your customers for what one person did,” said Lakey.

DeJongh was in the Christian County jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond.  The Christian County Sheriff's Department here says he has a warrant from Colorado for an assault charge. 

The police department of Canon City, Colo., the county seat of Fremont County, says DeJongh is charged in that city with harboring a minor, two counts of harassment, and two counts of criminal mischief.  He may face other charges in Fremont County. 

The Christian County Sheriff's Department also expect DeJongh will be charged with crimes in Greene County, but the Greene County Sheriff's Department didn't have anyone available on Monday to talk about the case.

The Christian County Sheriff’s Department says DeJongh provided information that he lives in Canon City.  Social media websites indicate he used to live in Springfield.

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