[Photo courtesy of the Grand County Sheriff's Office]

A high-speed chase through downtown Moab and into northern San Juan County ended this weekend when the vehicle that two suspected car thieves were traveling in experienced mechanical problems and came to a halt south of Hole N” the Rock.

Troy Wayne Melton and Lisa Gail Bosserman, both 43, of Staunton, Virginia, were arrested on numerous charges, including felony evading, possession of a stolen vehicle, reckless driving and speeding.

No one was injured as the suspects’ vehicle rushed through Moab’s congested business district, according to Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal.

“Not a soul,” Neal said. “It was kind of amazing at that time of day.”

The incident began on Sunday, Aug. 6, at about 8:52 a.m., after a sheriff’s deputy encountered a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot of Lion’s Park at the intersection of state Route 128 and U.S. Highway 191. According to Neal, the deputy had previously noticed that the car’s passenger and trunk doors were open.

“He had driven by it before, and it caught his attention,” Neal said.

The deputy ran a check on the license plate of the vehicle – a 1998 Toyota Camry – and dispatchers reported that it had been stolen out of Virginia.

The deputy made contact with a male subject outside the vehicle, who immediately entered the car and slid into the driver’s seat, while allegedly ignoring the deputy’s orders to exit the vehicle.

A woman then exited the restrooms and approached the vehicle. When the deputy ordered her not to get into the vehicle, the woman allegedly got into the front passenger seat, and the occupants fled Lion’s Park and traveled northbound on Highway 191 with the deputy in pursuit, according to Neal.

Neal said that the driver then made a U-turn at the north end of the Colorado River bridge and fled southbound on Highway 191 toward Moab, as the vehicle reportedly traveled more than 100 miles per hour toward Main Street. Moab City Police officers then joined in the pursuit as the vehicle approached the 400 block of North Main Street and continued south through Moab.

Peach vendor Cheryl Castle of Palisade, Colorado, was stationed off to the side of the highway on a dirt and gravel pullout when she heard the noise of a vehicle approaching her at a high rate of speed. She turned around when she heard the sound and saw the car as it came around the corner, and then veered off onto the shoulder where she had been standing.

“I jumped out of the way,” Castle said. “It was pretty scary – he was that fast.”

As the driver rushed past her, Castle said that only one thought crossed her mind: He was heading toward a 30-mile-per-hour zone.

“There are lots of pedestrians (along Main Street) – I thought that somebody was going to get hurt,” she said. “I was scared for the people in town more than for myself because he was going awfully fast.”

Castle said that none of the pursuing units ever veered off the road, and Neal said they reduced their speeds as the suspects’ vehicle drove through Moab at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. Along the way, Melton allegedly failed to stop at red lights and created a hazard to other drivers, according to Neal.

Moab resident Carol Mayer was filling up her car’s tank at City Market’s gas station when the driver sped by her, passing at least three southbound vehicles, including a large RV.

“It looked like he was veering across the lanes to pass the southbound traffic that was on the highway,” she said.

“Your blood could turn cold instantly because of fright, and (mine) did,” she said. “It was a horrible sight.”

Mayer was especially worried because she had just talked to a group of five husbands and wives on motorcycles who were heading south of town on 191 about five minutes before the speeding car rushed past City Market.

At first, she thought about taking a back road toward the San Juan County line to make sure the motorcyclists were all right. But as the minutes dragged on, Mayer said she grew relieved when she didn’t hear the sound of ambulance sirens in the distance.

Authorities continued their pursuit of the suspects’ vehicle as it continued south on Highway 191 and into San Juan County. Melton allegedly made several attempts to discourage the pursuit by slamming on the vehicle’s brakes and driving toward oncoming traffic, Neal said.

The pursuit ended at about 9:14 a.m. at milepost 106 on Pump Station Hill in San Juan County when the suspects’ vehicle experienced mechanical problems and was no longer operable.

“They blew the engine,” Neal said. “It started blowing oil and (stuff) onto the pursuing vehicle.”

Neal said that both Melton and Bosserman were taken into custody at that location without further incident, ending a series of run-ins with law enforcement that included high-speed chases in West Virginia and Colorado.

“They ran that little vehicle into the ground,” Neal said.

Melton and Bosserman were booked into the Emery County Jail, where local inmates are being held while Grand County’s jail is being renovated. In addition to the main charges against them, they were arrested for possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving with a suspended license and “weapon offense.”

Under the law, they are presumed to be innocent unless or until a court formally convicts them of any charges.

I thought that somebody was going to get hurt … I was scared for the people in town more than for myself because he was going awfully fast.

Authorities say driver topped 100 miles per hour on Main Street