Anchorage man hospitalized after evading troopers in woods

Jerzy Shedlock

KENAI -- A man is receiving treatment at an Anchorage hospital after evading the authorities through the woods on the Kenai Peninsula and hitching a ride back to Girdwood.

Alaska State Troopers searched for James Lee III on Monday and Tuesday after he attempted to flee from Anchorage to the Peninsula. After a vehicle pursuit, he fled on foot into the woods off the Seward Highway between Placer River and Ingram Creek.

Lee was headed south toward Seward or the Soldotna area, but troopers are unsure of his intended destination, said troopers' spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.

Troopers flew over the area Monday in a helicopter for three hours but could not locate the suspect. The search continued Tuesday, and authorities feared for the man's safety.

Then, at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, troopers were notified that a man at the Tesoro gas station in Girdwood told employees he had wrecked his snowmobile in the "backcountry" and needed assistance. Lee, of Anchorage, had walked out of the woods to the highway and flagged down a motorist who drove him to the gas station, according to a troopers.

He was transported to the hospital for treatment of hypothermia and exposure. A trooper was monitoring Lee as of Tuesday evening, as he could not be taken into custody before being medically cleared, Ipsen said.

Troopers' pursuit of Lee began Monday afternoon. They observed a stolen vehicle near Bird Point. They identified the driver as Lee, who has three felony warrants with bail totaling $55,000 for theft, vehicle theft, burglary, escape and fraud, according to troopers.

Troopers report that when they attempted to stop Lee at Milepost 100 of the Seward Highway, he continued southbound. Troopers deployed spike strips and successfully stopped the stolen truck at Milepost 77, according to troopers.

Lee immediately fled on foot. He ran into the woods on the west side of the highway. Troopers pursued the man with help from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Marshals and the Anchorage Police Department.

Authorities searched for three hours. A Forest Service officer fell and sustained minor injuries during the search, and a trooper was treated for exposure as a precaution. Both were treated at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage and released, according to troopers.

Prior to his transportation to the hospital, Lee had last been seen evading troopers on foot and refusing assistance. He was not dressed for the terrain or cold temperatures.

Peninsula Clarion