Two suspects in Custody after lengthy chase, fire and manhunt.
By Will Bublitz
Two suspects were arrested after leading Lincoln County law enforcement officers on a high speed chase that caused a grass fire near Genoa late Monday afternoon, Aug. 22.
The suspects, a man and a woman, were finally apprehended hiding in a culvert. They are now facing multiple felony charges.
Monday’s incident began around 5 p.m. when Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy Tyler Yowell spotted a Ford F-350 pickup on Interstate 70 that matched the description of a vehicle reported stolen in Northglenn over the weekend.
“Deputy Yowell attempted to execute a traffic stop, but the suspects refused to pull over,” Capt. Michael Yowell, Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said. “A high speed pursuit ensued.”
The fleeing Ford F-350 exited I-70 at the Genoa exit and headed north of State Highway 109.
“The suspects’ vehicle continued speeding down the county roads and then across pastures between the town of Genoa and home of Charles and Jessica Hoffman (publishers of The Limon Leader and Eastern Colorado Plainsman),” Yowell said. “During the pursuit, a wildland fire was sparked. We’re 99 percent certain that fire was caused by the suspects’ vehicle.”
As the pursuit continued, law enforcement officers began converging on the area and cordoned it off. In addition to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, officers from the Limon Police, Hugo Marshal’s Office and Colorado State Patrol responded to the scene.
“The Ford F-350 pickup ultimately got high centered and stuck on the railroad tracks a mile west of the Genoa Wonder Tower,” Yowell said. “Because of the rugged terrain, the officers were not in the immediate area when the pickup came to a stop. The suspects fled the vehicle on foot.”
The law enforcement cordon tightened around the area where the suspects had fled and were hiding. Meanwhile, firefighters from the Genoa, Limon and Hugo volunteer fire departments arrived at the scene to extinguish the grass fire.
Two aircraft joined the search for the suspects. One was a private plane flown by Limon Fire Chief Ian Christie. The other was from the Aircraft Section of the Colorado State Patrol.
“While the search continued, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office did a Reverse 911 call to the residents of Genoa and those living within a four-mile radius of the town,” Yowell said. “A Code Red warning was issued that advised residents to lock their doors.”
Also arriving to assist in the search was the K-9 unit of the Kit Carson County Sheriff’s Office.
“After approximately two hours of meticulous searching through that rough terrain, the K-9 unit’s dog alerted at a culvert,” Yowell said. “That culvert is a three-foot diameter tube that runs about 200 feet under the railroad tracks.”
Yowell said law enforcement was able to “flush out” the two suspects by sending an officer into the culvert. The suspects, who were not armed, surrendered and were taken into custody.
The two suspects are identified as Earl May Jr., 33, of Commerce City, and LaRayea Rochau, 27, of Denver.
“These two suspects are facing a litany of charges,” Yowell said. “May has 13 criminal charges filed against him ranging from aggravated motor vehicle theft to identity theft. Rochau has seven charges filed against her including motor vehicle theft and attempting to influence a public servant. Both are incarcerated at the Lincoln County Jail in Hugo with a $100,000 cash-only bond set.”
At the time of Monday’s incident, Yowell said both suspects were being sought on outstanding arrest warrants. Rochau was wanted on a parole violation, while May’s arrest warrant warned that he should to be considered “armed and dangerous.”
A total of 17 law enforcement officers participated in the pursuit and search for the suspects Monday.
“These officers had to search through some very rough terrain,” Yowell said. “We want to thank all of them. This was an example of how our regional law enforcement agencies can collaborate to protect the public.”
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office also wants to thank the residents of Genoa for their cooperation during “a long and intense night” as the search continued.
Yowell said the dispatchers at the Lincoln County Communications Center should also be commended for their performance during Monday’s incident.
“They had to coordinate both law enforcement officers from multiple agencies as well as firefighters to suppress that wildland fire,” he said. “They handled it all phenomenally.”