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Fugitive allegedly steals truck

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

DAMAR -- The fugitive who led authorities on a high-speed chase through Stockton before abandoning his vehicle in a wooded area apparently made off with a Damar man's GMC pickup, driving it into the mud at Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend.

Authorities launched a second unsuccessful manhunt Friday, using the Kansas Wetlands Education Center as a command post.

For a second time, however, the fugitive, tentatively identified as Michael Aaron Jayne, 30, sought refuge in a wooded area, escaping capture.

Jayne, sought on a parole violation out of Oregon, was named in an attempt to locate out of the U.S. Marshals office. He initially was stopped Tuesday by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper south of Stockton for speeding, giving a false name. As the trooper approached the vehicle a second time, the driver of the vehicle sped off, going through Stockton before heading west on U.S. Highway 24 and eventually turning north, driving into a field and hiding out in a wooded area.

Somehow, Jayne made his way about 10 miles to the southwest, allegedly stealing Richard Benoit's 2009 GMC pickup from a shed outside of Damar.

Benoit said his farm would be about 10 miles from where Jayne last was seen.

Using GMC's OnStar technology, the truck was found mired in the mud in Pool 1B at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, more than 100 miles to the southeast.

The driver of Benoit's truck apparently missed a curve in the road at the wetlands area.

Tracks leading from the pickup suggested the driver was heading back toward the wildlife area headquarters, said Curtis Wolf, director of the Wetlands Center, an adjunct to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. But, he said, a witness said a man had been seen on foot east of where the truck was abandoned.

"We're kind of on partial lockdown at the center," Wolf said.

KHP Trooper Tod Hileman said it's believed the pickup was taken from Benoit's residence at about midnight, discovered at approximately 10:30 a.m. Friday.

"He's apparently back in the woods," Hileman said of the person who stole the pickup, who they think might be Jayne. "They don't know if it's the same person. They're attempting to make contact with the guy."

Members of the KHP's canine unit, as well as officers from the Barton County Sheriff's office and its mobile command center, were using the wetland center as a command center -- offering a respite from the high heat and humidity outside.

Benoit said he discovered the pickup missing Friday morning.

"I went outside to get in the pickup to go to town to get coffee, and it was missing," he said.

After checking to make sure other members of the family weren't using it, he called the Rooks County Sheriff, who sought to locate it using the OnStar technology.

Nothing else at the farm was taken

"Just the pickup," Benoit said. "And really, we didn't hear anything."

He said the pickup last was seen when he went to retrieve his copy of The Hays Daily News, parking it in a lean-to when he returned to his house.

Benoit said he's not sure of the condition of the pickup, which first went over rocks protecting the dike next to what should be a pool of water.

"And I won't know about my pickup until they get it out of the mud," he said.

"Hopefully the guy's truck isn't too messed up," Wolf said. "It didn't look like it was too messed up."