A late Friday theft at Newton’s Walmart culminated in a chase that ended with the arrest of one suspect in a rural Marion County driveway and the escape of her accomplice despite a manhunt by half a dozen deputies, a drone, a highway patrol aircraft, and a police dog.
Newton deputy chief of police Scott Powell said Walmart notified police at 9:41 p.m. that male and female suspects left the store with $3,142 worth of merchandise and loaded it into a silver Chrysler Town and Country minivan.
Powell said the couple took electronics, clothing, toys, shoes, batteries, a bicycle, and assorted other items from the store.
Newton police began chasing the suspects and rolled out tire spikes in an attempt to flatten the vehicle’s tires, but the couple eluded the tire spikes by turning south onto I-135.
A three-hour manhunt that ensued involved half a dozen deputies from Marion, Harvey, and McPherson counties and a state trooper, as well as neighbors living where the suspects stopped the Chrysler.
“We let KHP take the lead on it,” Powell said.
Powell said the pursuit went south, then north on I-135, then east along US-50, and north on Chisholm Trail Rd., ending in a driveway near 90th and Chisholm Trail Rds.
“They didn’t stay on one road for very long,” he said.
After stopping in the driveway, the suspects bailed out of the minivan. The woman stayed beside the vehicle, and the man fled into the night.
KHP launched an airplane with infrared heat-seeking equipment, and Newton police went to the area and launched a drone in an attempt to locate the man, but were unable to three hours after the incident began.
At two points in the search, operators of the aerial equipment thought they identified heat sources in heavily wooded areas only to be informed that they had located what deputies on the ground already had determined to be a meandering skunk.
The search began petering out around 1 a.m. Saturday with Marion County deputies checking cabins east of Tabor Church.
Christie A. Cranmer, 47, Hutchinson, was arrested in the driveway and booked into Harvey County jail on suspicion of felony obstruction of law enforcement and theft. She bonded out Monday on $5,000 surety bond.
Powell said police thought they knew the identity of the male suspect.
“We’re going to try to get warrants for the guy, and hopefully confirm with Walmart whether that is who he was,” Powell said.
Newton police impounded the Chrysler and towed it to Walmart so the merchandise could be returned.
Powell said he anticipated the male suspect, who was driving the Chrysler, would be booked into Harvey County jail on suspicion of theft, interference with law enforcement, and fleeing and eluding police if he is arrested.