Area police and firefighters are searching for a man who disappeared early Monday morning after a police chase ended with a car submerged in the Illinois River.
Area police and firefighters are searching for a man who disappeared early Monday morning after a police pursuit ended with a car submerged in the Illinois River.
The car was pulled from the river just before 10 a.m. While one of the men in the car swam to safety and was taken into custody, Tazewell County Sheriff Bob Huston said there are no signs that the second man, identified as Aaron L. Slaughter, 36, with a last known address of 2709 W. Hayes St. in Peoria, made it out.
“We have no evidence that he exited the river. We don’t know whether he got out or not,” Huston said Monday morning.
Mark A. Turner, 17, of 265 Derby St. in Pekin was believed to be the sole passenger in the vehicle. After he was pulled from the water, he was arrested and booked at Tazewell County Jail on charges of burglary, possession of anhydrous ammonia with intent to manufacture methamphetamine and criminal trespass to land.
South Pekin police responded to a call about 12:30 a.m. about an anhydrous ammonia theft from Cupi’s Ag Center, a supplier of farm chemicals at 100 W. Main St. in South Pekin. As officers attempted to pull over a car suspected to hold the thieves, the car continued driving and refused to pull over, authorities said.
South Pekin police pursued the car through Pekin and across the McNaughton Bridge into Peoria County. Pekin police and Tazewell County deputies also joined the pursuit. The car turned from Illinois Route 9 onto Cargill Road, a small frontage road leading to the water that is within the Pekin Police Department’s jurisdiction. The car appeared to deliberately drive over a small hill, down onto a boat dock area and into the water about 1:45 a.m., Huston said.
“It appears that they intentionally drove into the river,” Huston said. “I don’t think they went in all that fast.”
At first the two men attempted to swim away to evade police, but authorities coaxed Turner into coming to shore. Slaughter, registered as the owner of the car and suspected to be the driver, was last seen swimming in the middle of the current, swimming south.
“It is possible for someone to have swam to shore,” Pekin Police Chief Ted Miller said late Monday morning. “We don’t know at this point.”
The Pekin Fire Department, Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department and Illinois Department of Conservation had boats in the water looking for Slaughter. An Illinois State Police plane was being called in to provide help in searching the area as well, Houston said.
Slaughter has an extensive criminal record including convictions for burglary, aggravated battery with a weapon and possessing a controlled substance, according to a search of Tazewell County court records.
Peoria County Underwater Rescue divers said the water temperature was 58 degrees, meaning it would be difficult to survive for long in the water.
“In 50 degree water, a fit person has a 50-50 chance of surviving 50 minutes in the water,” said Tim Sommer, on-scene investigator for the rescue team. “That’s an old adage. It’s called the rule of five.”
Huston, Pekin Police Chief Ted Miller and South Pekin Police Chief Mark Morger were meeting in Huston’s office late Monday morning to compare reports in order to relay information on the incident to the state’s attorney’s office.
Anyone with information about Slaughter’s whereabouts is urged to call CrimeStoppers at 673-9000 or 347-9000, or to contact one of the investigating police agencies.
Monday’s incident was not the first time Slaughter sent a vehicle into the Illinois River.
On Dec. 11, 1997, Slaughter was among three men involved in the burglary of the Morton Pet Palace. Authorities said the three men stole several animals and equipment valued at $6,000, the broke into a business next door and stole a minivan to transport the animals and equipment to a home in Pekin.
The stolen van was later found dumped in the Illinois River. Divers spent nearly eight hours in freezing temperatures before finding the van, which sank and was carried downstream by the current.
Slaughter, then of 528 Margaret St., pleaded guilty of burglary but mentally ill in the incident. Prosecutors dropped another burglary charge and a charge of unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle in exchange for the guilty plea, Journal Star records show.
Ryan Ori can be reached at 686-3264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.