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Missing driver from South Jordan rollover found hiding in trunk of realtor’s vehicle, police say

Posted at 11:55 AM, Apr 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-27 11:14:38-04

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah - A motorist who fled the scene of a rollover accident in South Jordan was found eight hours later in the trunk of someone's car in Eagle Mountain, police said Sunday.

On Saturday just before 5 a.m., police responded to a single vehicle rollover involving a Ford F-150 at 11300 South and Great Neck Drive. Homeowners near the accident heard the commotion and went outside to make sure everyone was OK.

Courtesy of South Jordan police

Courtesy of South Jordan police

“My wife thought it was an earthquake,” said Jeff Myers, the owner of the home where the truck crashed. “I run out the front, look out the window to see if I could see anything because it sounded like it was right on top of us."

Myers said someone then came to the door.

“I hear the doorbell ringing over and over and over, and pounding on the front door,” Myers said. “And I come downstairs, and look through the peephole and there's a white male standing there and I shout, 'knock it off!’ And he shouts back, 'there's been an accident out here!' So I run back in, tell my wife to call 911 and get dressed, and by the time I come out, he's gone, except there's a shoe left.  Not quite the Cinderella story that I wanted to participate in."

Damage to property is estimated to be more than $1,000. The truck is considered a total loss.

A mugshot from 2006.

A mugshot from 2006.

Landon Terry Defa, 33, of West Jordan, was later identified as the driver who fled the scene of the accident. He has not yet been booked into jail but authorities provided a previous booking photo of the man from 2006.

After the accident, Defa went into the neighborhood looking for unlocked doors to garages, said Master Officer Sam Winkler, spokesman with South Jordan police.

Defa found an unlocked garage door in the area of 11300 South and 4120 West, according to a press release from South Jordan police. He went inside the garage, entered a parked vehicle, put down the backseats and hid in the trunk.

Lacy Stevens owns the vehicle, and the realtor traveled to Eagle Mountain to show some houses later that same day. Winkler said Defa was still hiding inside the trunk of her vehicle.

“While at one residence in Eagle Mountain, her car alarm went off and everything was okay,” the release states. “She then proceeded to a second residence in Eagle Mountain and after showing that house, she proceeded back to her vehicle where she saw the backseat down and legs sticking out.”

Stevens told FOX 13 News: "I looked in the back and saw a man's legs. It was just, like, terrifying. It freaked me out and so, I honestly thought it was a dead man's body."

That occurred at about 11:23 a.m., and the woman called Utah County Sheriff’s Office. Defa told police he had been using heroin, and Stevens said he was acting strangely.

"He like got out of my trunk and was like drinking out of my water bottle and tried to wear my coat, so yeah, he was a little out of it,” she said.

Deputies took Defa into custody. Defa admitted to being the driver of the vehicle that rolled and told deputies he was running for his life.

Defa also admitted to breaking into the victim's garage and hiding in her vehicle.

According to the press release, Defa complained of injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment and has not been transported to jail.

Defa was issued a summons on charges of reckless driving, hit and run, and trespassing.

Defa does have a criminal history related to drugs, DUI, assault, unlawful detention and robbery.

“We are very fortunate that the suspect was only seeking a hiding spot,” Winkler stated in the press release. “This could have been a serious and tragic scenario if this suspect had intentions of stealing this vehicle or harming this individual. It’s a great reminder to double-check that all doors and windows to your residence are secured at night.”