Troopers: Sterling pickup theft suspect caught after driving past investigator, fleeing

Tegan Hanlon

A 30-year-old man was arrested Wednesday after he stole a pickup truck from a Sterling garage and drove by a trooper who was investigating the vehicle's theft, Alaska State Troopers said.

The truck's owner told troopers that he woke up early Wednesday in the Kenai Peninsula town, looked out a window and saw his garage door open, said Beth Ipsen, troopers spokeswoman.

Troopers received a report of the stolen Toyota pickup truck shortly before 2:15 a.m., according to a report.

"Apparently the thief went in the side door and found the keys in the truck and took off," she said.

A trooper responded and followed the truck's tracks in the snow, Ipsen said.

When the trooper was about 1.5 miles from the home, Jeremy Whitlow drove by in the stolen truck. Whitlow immediately accelerated, Ipsen said.

"The trooper had to run back to his vehicle about 50 yards away before he could follow the truck," Ipsen said.

The trooper located the abandoned truck in a ditch less than a mile away around 3:20 a.m., near Carter Way and Skilak Lane. The driver's side door was open and Whitlow was gone, Ipsen said.

Soldotna police and a trooper with a K-9 dog were called to assist in tracking the suspect, she said.

"They saw where he was hiding under a camper, in a shed, and (had) walked down a few roads and driveways," Ipsen said.

Troopers found Whitlow walking along a road less than two miles from the truck. They said he had been driving the vehicle while drunk.

"They yelled at him and he gave himself up," Ipsen said.

Whitlow was arrested around 4:40 a.m., taken to Wildwood Pretrial Facility and held without bail, troopers said. Whitlow faces burglary, vehicle theft and DUI charges and probation violations.

The pickup was not damaged and was returned to the owner, Ipsen said.

Reach Tegan Hanlon at or 257-4589.