UHP: Suspect, 27, charged after Juab County hit and run, manhunt

File photo: Gephardt Daily/Nancy Van Valkenburg

JUAB COUNTY, Utah, July 4, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — A 27-year-old man is being held without bail after the Utah Highway Patrol says he left the scene of a crash on I-15, flung baggies of illegal drugs from his vehicle, evaded troopers and police dogs for hours, and sparked an urgent UHP plea for drivers to avoid shirtless hitchhikers.

Juan Francisco Valencia, 27, is charged on suspicion of:

  • Failure to stop or respond at the command of police, a third-degree felony
  • Reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor
  • Possession of a controlled substances l/ll/analog, a class A misdemeanor
  • Use or possession of drug paraphrenia, a class B misdemeanor
  • Possession of a controlled substance, marijuana/spice, a class B misdemeanor
  • Failure to remain at the scene of accident, damage only, a class B misdemeanor
  • Failure to operate within a single lane, an infraction

Troopers were dispatched to crash about 7:37 a.m. Saturday, according to the UHP.

“While I was traveling towards the location I was informed the vehicle that caused the accident had fled the scene and was traveling northbound on I-15 from mile marker 194,” says Valencia’s probable cause statement, filed by the responding Utah Highway Patrol officer.

The trooper located the vehicle, a black passenger car with front-end damage, on northbound I-15 near mile marker 202.

“The vehicle had airbag deployment and large amount of damage,” the trooper wrote. “I pulled in behind the vehicle to perform a traffic stop. At this point I had my emergency lights and sirens on and the vehicle was not stopping. I watched the driver open the door of the vehicle and throw small baggies out. The driver then went into the median where he ran on foot.”

A search party was assembled to look for the suspect, says the trooper’s statement.

“The vehicle was secured. While securing the vehicle I noticed a crystal like substance inside of the driver door and needles.”

Three K-9 units and a Department of Public Safety helicopter were used in the multi-hour search. The suspect’s vehicle was transported to the Juab County Sheriff’s Office, where “a K-9 alerted to the odor of narcotics coming from the vehicle. A E-warrant was applied for,” and approved, the officer’s statement says.

“During search of the vehicle I was able to locate multiple bags of methamphetamine and multiple containers of marijuana inside of the vehicle.”

The trooper got a call several hours later, he wrote.

“I received a call that the suspect was located and was getting into a vehicle with two females. The vehicle was stopped and we were able to locate the vehicle and perform a traffic stop. The suspect was in the backseat unwilling to exit the vehicle. He was finally placed into custody.”

The UHP officer said that while speaking to Valencia, “I was able to see signs of the driver coming down from a controlled substance. The driver was not feeling the pain from injuries we had from the running all day. The suspect was also unable to focus and not responsive. The individuals who picked up the suspect admitted to knowing the suspect and stated they were called to pick him up. They were placed under arrest and their vehicle was impounded.”

Valencia was transported to Central Valley Medical Center, and a warrant was obtained for chemical tests. Valencia was booked into the Juab County Jail.

One of the women in the car that had picked up Valencia was discovered to be his mother, and it was determined she “had been in contact with the main suspect during the first bit of the incident and she knew he had been in a crash and she knew where to find him off a dirt road in Juab County. Both women were booked into the Juab County Jail.

“While at the jail the females allowed consent to look at there phones and I was able to locate calls between the suspect and the females where they had made several
phone called throughout the day while we were attempting to locate him.”

The officer who filed the affidavit said Valencia had been free on bail while awaiting trial on a previous felony charge, and he has several warrants for his arrest.

“The driver is known to care firearms and had caused a traffic collision today where he could have hurt people with under the influence,” the officer added, in arguing for the no-bail hold, which a judge granted.


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