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The Four Corners Fugitive Search- the Largest Manhunt in Western History


Background to the Crime- The Sequence of Events

On Wednesday, May 27, 1998 near Ignacio, Colorado, a flatbed truck was seen driving by a storage facility for Richmond Foxy, a company providing services for oilfield equipment. A witness stated that the flatbed truck was moving suspiciously slow. When the driver realized he had been seen, he sped off. This flatbed truck was later identified as the truck owned by Jason Wayne McVean.

On Thursday afternoon, May 28, McVean, presumably with the help of his childhood friend, Robert Matthew Mason, and their relatively recent acquaintance, Alan Lamont Pilon, returned to the Richmond Foxy facility and stole a 1998, 2 ½ ton Mack water truck. The trio secured the truck without incident and disappeared for the day. They were spotted in the stolen truck the next morning on Montezuma County Road 27 as they drove toward McElmo Canyon west of Cortez, Colorado.

On Friday, May 29 at 9:24 a.m. Cortez Police Officer Dale Claxton radioed Cortez dispatch stating he had spotted and was following the stolen water truck and requesting backup. Before the officer turned on his lights, the water truck pulled over. Claxton followed suit, pulling off behind the truck and notifying dispatch that he had done so. Immediately, before he had a chance to exit his police cruiser, the suspect occupying the passenger seat of the water truck exited and fired as many as 40 rounds- reports are conflicting- into Claxton’s patrol car. Officer Claxton was hit 18 times and died at the scene.

The altercation leaving Officer Claxton dead lasted only a moment, with the trio afterwards speeding off towards McElmo Canyon and their eventual escape into Utah. But this escape did not happen without further altercations with law enforcement. The trio continued south on County Road 27 towards County Road F. At this point it appears they decided the water truck was either too slow or too conspicuous. They stopped at the residence of building contractor Bob Williams, spotting someone in his yard near a Ford flatbed truck. After pulling the water truck to the side of the road, one of the suspects exited and approached Paul Ibarra, an employee of Williams, who was at the Ford ready to drive off. The suspect, described by Ibarra as about 6 foot 1 inch tall with blonde hair, identified as McVean, told Ibarra they would not hurt him, that they wanted the truck. With McVean’s assault rifle pointed at Ibarra he was in no position to argue. McVean backed the Ford down the driveway to where Mason and Pilon waited. At this point it is thought that Mason took over as driver, with Pilon in the passenger seat, and McVean on the bed of the truck.

As the trio drove back onto County Road F they pulled behind Montezuma County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Bishop. The suspect on the flatbed, positively identified as McVean by witnesses later in the chase, opened fire on Bishop’s car, allegedly with an automatic weapon. One of the rounds hit Bishop in the back of the head knocking him unconscious and causing his patrol car to careen off the side of the road.

The suspects sped towards the intersection with County Road 25 where they encountered Colorado State Trooper Steve Keller. The truck’s passenger and McVean, on the back of the flatbed, fired on Keller, missing him but disabling his patrol car. Immediately they met Cortez Police Sergeant Sue Betts, who was fired on but also not injured. Up ahead, as they drove north on County Road 25, Deputy Todd Martin had pulled off the road and was waiting for them. As the trio passed by they opened fire on Martin hitting him twice.
At this point other officers- at least the names of six other officers’ names appear in different accounts at this point in the chase- joined in the chase and were either fired upon and disabled, or otherwise lost the fugitives as they sped away in the flatbed truck.

The suspects then turned onto County Road G, crossed Highway 160/666 where they lost some of these officers at the intersection, and sped into McElmo canyon.

Back to Top
Page 1- Introduction-
Page 2- The Crime- The Sequence of Events
Page 3- Disappearance
Page 4- The High Desert of the Colorado Plateau
Page 5- The Area Mapped by the Fugitives



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