Man accused of killing Utah sergeant faces 9 felonies, including capital offense - East Idaho News
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Man accused of killing Utah sergeant faces 9 felonies, including capital offense

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PROVO, Utah (KSL.com) — A capital murder charge was filed Tuesday against the man accused of killing Santaquin Police Sgt. Bill Hooser.

But Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Gray has not said whether he intends to seek the death penalty if Michael Aaron Jayne is convicted.

Jayne, 42, of Garrett, Indiana, was charged Tuesday in 4th District Court with aggravated murder, a capital offense; two counts of attempted aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping, first-degree felonies; burglary and three counts of theft, second-degree felonies; and failing to stop for an officer, a third-degree felony.

If convicted on the aggravated murder charge, the possible penalties include death, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or 25 years to life in prison.

Gray’s predecessor, David Leavitt, had previously said that while he was the Utah County attorney his office would no longer seek the death penalty in any case. Although Gray did not address Tuesday whether he’ll seek the death penalty in Jayne’s case, his office has stated that, “Mr. Gray does not subscribe to his predecessor’s philosophy” and that “the death penalty is on the table in every capital case.”

Jayne is scheduled to make his initial appearance in court on Wednesday.

During a brief press conference on Tuesday to announce the charges, Gray did not take any questions from reporters and said he only intends to make public comments about the case at the arraignment stage of the court proceedings “when it comes time to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty,” and at the conclusion of the trial, saying he does not want to “jeopardize the integrity of prosecution.”

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Gray did say he has assembled his best attorneys to handle the Jayne case, including prosecutors involved in the conviction of Jerrod Baum and the man convicted of killing Provo police officer Joseph Shinners.

Just before 6 a.m. on May 5, police dispatchers received a report of a semitruck in the northbound lanes of I-15 with an individual riding on the back of the trailer. Charging documents filed Tuesday say it was actually Jayne who “called 911 and said that someone was riding on the back of the trailer of the semitruck he was driving.”

Jayne claimed “that the Hells Angels were targeting the driver of the truck. The caller would not give his name,” a police booking affidavit states.

Not long after, Hooser spotted the semitruck.

“Sgt. Bill Hooser caught up with the semi as it exited the northbound freeway at the Santaquin Main Street exit, then immediately got on the on-ramp to continue northbound on I-15. Sgt. Hooser turned on his emergency lights and initiated a traffic stop,” the charges state.

UHP trooper Dustin Griffiths arrived at the traffic stop almost immediately.

Both officers began speaking with Jayne through the driver’s side window.

“The driver, who was later identified as Michael Aaron Jayne, was uncooperative and would not answer questions from the officers. The officers made several attempts to reassure Jayne of the reason for the stop and that he was not in any trouble with them. They told Jayne they were there trying to help,” according to the affidavit.

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But at that point, a woman came out of the sleeper area of the semitruck’s cab, jumped out of the passenger side door and ran to the officers with her hands up, according to the arrest report. After the woman briefly talked to Hooser, the sergeant made a gesture to the trooper indicating that Jayne needed to be detained.

“Trooper Griffiths reached for the door handle while giving (Jayne) instructions to exit the truck. (Jayne) locked the door, put the truck into gear, and fled northbound. Sgt. Hooser and trooper Griffiths turned their backs to the truck and started running towards their vehicles so they could pursue the fleeing defendant. While their backs were turned, (Jayne) made a sharp U-turn and started heading southbound back down the freeway onramp,” according to charging documents.

“Jayne accelerated the semitruck very quickly to the point that black smoke was billowing out of the exhaust smokestack as it continued” toward the two officers and the woman, according to the affidavit.

“Sgt. Hooser was in the doorjamb of his patrol vehicle when he turned and saw (Jayne) headed towards them. Sgt. Hooser left his vehicle and started running towards the rear of his vehicle. (Jayne) steered the truck towards Sgt. Hooser and continued to accelerate. The truck’s grill and bumper struck Sgt. Hooser in the back, smashing him into the front of trooper Griffiths’ patrol car and killing Sgt. Hooser,” the charges state.

Investigators say Jayne then attempted to hit Griffiths and the woman, who both “jumped/ran from the path of the oncoming semitruck and were able to narrowly escape being struck.”

Jayne continued driving for about 100 feet, stopped in the shoulder of the road, and then ran. Police say Jayne went to a nearby gas station where he unsuccessfully tried to steal two cars before finding an unlocked semitruck with the keys inside. He drove the semitruck south to near Mona, Juab County, then abandoned it. Jayne stole another vehicle with the keys left inside, drove south into Nephi and then to Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County, according to the affidavit, where he stole another vehicle.

Troopers later that morning located Jayne 170 miles away near Vernal.

The casket of Santaquin Police Sgt. Bill Hooser is carried by pallbearers toward the waiting hearse outside the UCCU Center at UVU in Orem on Monday, May 13, 2024.
The casket of Santaquin Police Sgt. Bill Hooser is carried by pallbearers toward the waiting hearse outside the UCCU Center at UVU in Orem on Monday, May 13, 2024.

During funeral services on Monday for Hooser, Gov. Spencer Cox acknowledged the heroics of Griffiths as well as UHP trooper Brock Lewis and Roosevelt police officer Corey Reed, who were having breakfast in the Uintah Basin that day when the “code blue” — signifying that an officer had been critically injured or killed — went out along with information about Jayne.

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“They knew there was a fallen officer. They knew there was a fugitive on the loose. They knew where vehicles had been stolen and all of them were in central Utah, hundreds of miles from where they were having breakfast. None of us thought that this fugitive was going that direction,” Cox said. “Trooper Lewis felt something. Something called to him. He said, ‘I knew I had to get out there.’ So they finished up faster than they were planning, raced out and got in their car, not knowing why. Thirty seconds later, the fugitive passed him on the highway.

“Officer Reed came in behind, and they began a pursuit. At times, officer Reed was on his own, pursuing this evil human being who had taken the life of one of their brethren. Eventually they were able to catch up .. and that’s when Cpl. Scott Major from the Highway Patrol stepped in. Over 100 mph, this despicable human being was trying to cause more death on that road, trying purposely to hit oncoming cars. Citizens racing to get out of the way. Traveling at speeds of over 100 mph, a PIT maneuver was initiated and the chase came to an end,” Cox said.

Gray said Jayne had a “short stay” at University of Utah Hospital and was booked into the Utah County Jail on Saturday. Jayne’s injuries have not been disclosed.

Police noted that “Jayne has an extensive criminal history with violent offenses over the last 20 plus years,” including convictions of assaulting and threatening police, resisting arrest, felony evading and domestic violence assault. He is currently on federal probation.

If Jayne is ordered to stand trial on the charge of aggravated murder during his preliminary hearing, he will then enter a plea at his arraignment. After the arraignment, prosecutors will have 60 days to file a notice of intent seeking the death penalty.

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