Escapist’s crime spree ends in eastern Colorado

31 Jul

A convenience store clerk in eastern Colorado who recognized the tattoo on Jacob Wolsleben’s leg helped lead authorities to the 26-year-old man after he escaped from Tri-County Hospital in Lexington and zigzagged across five states in five days.

Before his escape, Wolsleben was being held in Dawson County, Neb., on several charges out of Buffalo, Dawson and Lincoln counties, including burglary and writing bad checks. He was taken to the hospital for an undisclosed medical problem and escaped on Saturday.

Wolsleben’s run all came to an end on Wednesday after he stopped for gas at the Ampride in Stratton, Colo.

Store manager Marjo Dietz said she had received a Dawson County Sheriff’s dispatch that described the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Wolsleben and his tattoos, one of them a large ‘W’ with three stars on his right calf.

Wolsleben, who was wearing long pants under the hospital gown when he escaped, was in shorts at the gas station, Dietz said.

When one of her clerks noticed the tattoo on his leg, Dietz said, she knew it was the wanted man.

“If he had long pants on, no one would have noticed,” Dietz said Thursday. “He was nicely dressed. This guy, you wouldn’t have paid attention to normally. He was a nice-looking guy.”

Dietz said she called the Kit Carson County, Colo., sheriff. Deputies spotted Wolsleben driving westbound on Interstate 70 a short time later and a chase began.

According to a Kit Carson County statement, Wolsleben sped away at speeds near 100 mph before crossing the median to avoid stop sticks and turning onto a county road about six miles west of Flaglar, Colo. Officers from Kit County, Lincoln County and the Colorado State Patrol caught up to Wolsleben and arrested him without incident.

(Read on for the story of Wolsleben’s escape and string of car thefts)

According to Nebraska court documents, Wolsleben ran from the Lexington hospital when he was freed from handcuffs to wash his hands during an exam. The Dawson County Sheriff’s deputy who was guarding Wolsleben didn’t immediately chase after him, but returned to a nurse’s station to call in the escape. That deputy then had trouble resuming his chase because the hospital locked all its doors after Wolsleben fled.

Dawson County Sheriff Gary Reiber said after Wolsleben escaped, he ran to his mother’s house nearby and took off in his girlfriend’s 2010 Chevrolet pickup. The girlfriend did not accompany him.

Over the five days Wolsleben was on the lam, Verizon tracked Wolsleben’s route from Colorado Springs to Cheyenne, Wyo., and later from eastern Colorado into western Kansas and back to Colorado.

Wolsleben twice eluded Rock County, Neb., sheriff’s deputies Saturday night. He dumped his girlfriend’s pickup in Bonesteel, S.D., on Sunday and stole another one, a 1997 Dodge.

That pickup was recovered in Ravenna, Neb. where he stole the 2009 Ford Expedition he was driving when he was caught.

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