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Police: Theft suspect nearly dies after 4 nights in Utah wilderness fueled by drug-induced panic

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Posted at 7:52 PM, Dec 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-11 21:52:18-05

SALINA, Utah — Police arrested a man in Emery County this week, and the suspect told authorities he had been fleeing in a drug induced panic when he skipped out on paying for gas then abandoned his car and wandered into the wilderness on foot–where he remained for several days before finding help.

Ricardo DelacruzAccording to a press release from the Emery County Sheriff’s Office, the suspect is 25-year-old Ricardo Delacruz of Vista, California. The man was arrested in Utah this week when he flagged down a snow plow after spending four nights in the elements, and police stated it’s believed the man would have died had he gone another night without finding help.

Based on the man’s statements to police, Delacruz left California on December 4 after “using drugs constantly for weeks prior with only one or two hours of sleep per day” and becoming paranoid. Convinced he was being chased, the man drove for three days.

Image courtesy Emery County Sheriff's Office.

Image courtesy Emery County Sheriff’s Office.

Details about his activities during that time are “sketchy” due to the man’s drug use, but he ultimately wound up in Salina. After filling his car with gas, he had a problem with his debit card when he went to pay. The clerk told Delacruz she would have to call police dispatch, and Delacruz later reported this sparked his paranoia so he got in his car and left.

Still believing he was being chased, he fled. He says he does not remember leaving I-70 and going north on SR-10 in Emery County, and he stated he doesn’t know why he abandoned his vehicle, “other than in his mind people were chasing him.” He said he got out of the car and began running, and investigators confirmed tracks near the abandoned vehicle indicated someone was running and slipping,  but there were no indications other people had been in the area.

Delacruz then spent four nights in the wilderness area between Consol Mine and I-70, according to the press release. The first night he didn’t have any protection from the elements, but by the second night he found a small storage shed with a blanket and a first aid kit. Delacruz was thinking more clearly by now, and he started trying to reach I-70, which was visible in the distance.

His efforts kept failing, though, as he repeatedly became ledged-in by the terrain. Eventually he saw Miller’s Canyon Road, where a snow plow was working. He hiked to the road and waited until the snow plow came back by, at which point he flagged the driver down. The driver gave the man coffee and reported to his supervisor, who had heard Emery County Sheriff’s Office was looking for someone in that area.

Police responded and Delacruz was arrested without incident.

According to the press release: “Delacruz stated that the medical provider told him that in addition to hypothermia, frostbite on his feet and the mental stress he was suffering, his body was shutting down and he probably would not have survived another night in the elements.”

Friday, Delacruz told a judge he wanted to be in a substance abuse program because during the previous days he believed he was going to die, and now he wants to go home and get the help he needs.

The man was booked into the Sevier County Jail.