SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Searchers combing the Wyoming backcountry on Thursday found the truck a slain rail line worker was driving when he disappeared amid a manhunt for two suspects in a bizarre Utah kidnapping case.
An FBI agent spotted the pickup near the father and son's Wyoming hideout, the Sublette County Sheriff's Office said.
The vehicle could be a key piece of evidence for police investigating whether the two suspects had anything to do with the death of 63-year-old worker Kay Porter Ricks.
Centerville Police Chief Paul Child said police were still trying to determine if the kidnapping was connected to Ricks' death, but "it would be an amazing coincidence if they were not."
Police are investigating the case as a homicide. The rail worker's truck, found in a wooded area off a main road, will be turned over to the FBI and Utah Transit Authority police.
He vanished last week as he worked on Salt Lake City's light rail system near where suspects Flint Wayne Harrison, 51, and son Dereck James "DJ" Harrison, 22, were lying low during a police manhunt.
The Mormon grandfather's body was found Tuesday along the route the two men likely took as they fled north to the elder Harrison's home in western Wyoming. Both men were arrested Saturday after Flint Harrison surrendered and led police to their makeshift campsite near Pinedale, Wyoming.
The pair was extradited back to Utah on Thursday to face kidnapping and other charges. They're accused of heavily using drugs and tying up a woman and her four teenage daughters in a Centerville, Utah, basement on May 10 because they wrongly believed the mother had reported them to authorities. The family managed to break free and escape.
While there's no definitive link between the two cases, police say Ricks' truck could explain how they traveled nearly 250 miles from Utah. It had last been spotted on surveillance cameras in Wyoming, near where his body was found.
Having the two suspects jailed in Utah in the kidnapping case will give Wyoming police time to fully investigate Ricks' death, said Centerville Police Lt. Von Steenblik.
"This is like no case I've ever worked," he said.
The Ricks family, meanwhile, is mourning their loss rather than speculating on what happened, family spokesman Richard Massey said. Ricks had three grown sons and six grandchildren. His funeral has been set for May 28.
Ricks was a handyman who spent his free time helping neighbors fix their lights and ceiling fans.
"He's the neighbor you want to have if something breaks in your house," Massey said. "He would help anyone who needed help."
He lived by a regimented daily routine and would never have left work or gone to Wyoming on his own, Massey said.