Police & Fire

Truck driver accused of intentionally killing Utah officer had been holding a woman against her will

The woman told police that she had been voluntarily riding with the truck driver until they argued at a truck stop in Beaver, Utah

A truck driver accused of intentionally killing a police officer during a traffic stop on a Utah highway had been holding a woman against her will inside the cab of his truck, new court documents reveal.

Michael Aaron Jayne, 42, is accused of driving his rig into Santaquin Police Sgt. Bill Hooser, who died at the scene on May 5, while the officer was helping a woman who had escaped from the sleeper section of Jayne’s semitrailer. Friends, family, fellow officers and state officials honored the fallen officer at a public funeral on Monday.

Jayne, of Garrett, Indiana, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of aggravated murder targeting a law enforcement officer, kidnapping, burglary, vehicle theft and failure to respond to officers’ signal to stop, according to a police booking affidavit. He was already on federal probation and is being held without bail in the Utah County Jail. As of Monday, no formal charges had been filed against him in Utah.

Hooser, 50, and Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Dustin Griffiths stopped the semitrailer around 6:30 a.m. in Santaquin, 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City, after an anonymous 911 caller reported that a person was standing on the back of the rig as it traveled north on Interstate 15. Who, if anyone, was riding on the back of the semitrailer was still being investigated, police said.

While Jayne was distracted talking to Griffiths, a woman fled from the passenger side and ran behind the truck to Hooser, pleading for help.

She later told police that she had been voluntarily riding with Jayne until they argued at a truck stop in Beaver, Utah. Jayne initially drove off without her but returned several times. When she refused to get back in the truck, Jayne threatened her with a knife and bear spray until she agreed, according to the affidavit.

When Griffiths reached for Jayne’s door handle, the trucker locked the door and drove off, then made a sharp U-turn while the officers were running to their own vehicles. He accelerated toward Hooser, black smoke billowing from his exhaust smokestack, and smashed the officer into a patrol car, court documents state.

Jayne then gunned his truck toward Griffiths and the woman, but they jumped out of the way to escape being hit.

Jayne, whose criminal history dates back over 20 years, took off on foot to a Maverik gas station, where he found a semitruck with the doors unlocked and the keys inside. Police say he stole the semitruck and, later, a 1976 Ford F250, which he drove to a vacant house in Mt. Pleasant.

He entered the home through the garage, stealing boots and the keys to a Ford F150 that he later crashed when police performed a maneuver that caused him to lose control of the vehicle near Vernal, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) east of Santaquin, investigators said. Jayne was taken into custody at the crash site and driven to a hospital where he was treated for a week.

At Hooser’s funeral Monday, his youngest daughter, Courtney, described her father as a hero and said she was heartbroken that he can’t walk her down the aisle later this year.

“There has been anger, sadness, grief and confusion,” she said through tears. “I’ve spent the last few days thinking about what it was like for my dad to lay there lifeless and what that man took from us with no remorse.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox called the suspect a “despicable human being” and assured Courtney that so many dads would honor her father and support her on her wedding day.

Jayne’s court records detail a history of attacking police officers in multiple states, including convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, battery and threats of violence toward police.

In March 2009, he was was charged in Oregon with attempted aggravated murder for trying to strike an Oregon State Police officer with his vehicle in Klamath County. He pleaded guilty to attempted assault and being a felon in possession of body armor and was sentenced to just over three years in prison.

No attorney was listed for Jayne in court documents Monday.

BY HANNAH SCHOENBAUM

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