Missing UTA employee’s death may be connected to fugitives’ flight from Utah

Posted at 10:33 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-19 00:33:58-04

WYOMING -- Police are still searching for a possible connection between two attempted kidnapping suspects and a missing Utah Transit Authority worker who was found dead Tuesday night.

Police say Dereck (DJ) Harrison and his father, Flint, made a run for Wyoming about the same time the UTA worker and his truck went missing.

Sheriff’s deputies, police from Utah and Wyoming, the Department of Public Safety and even the FBI are engaging in a joint investigation into the death of Kay Ricks.

Ricks was found in Lincoln County, Wyoming. Wednesday, crews focused on lakes near that area and where the Harrisons were hiding out in the hope of finding Ricks’ missing work truck.

While the search ended for the night without success, efforts are expected to continue Thursday.

It’s not clear if the two cases are related or not, but police say the death is being investigated as a homicide.

“I’m not going to tell you that’s exactly what happened, I’m trying to tell you there’s enough things that have come together that we're certainly looking that way,” Sheriff Shane Johnson of Lincoln County said.

Centerville police said Ricks’ truck was last seen about a mile away from a home where the Harrisons had fled to after the alleged attack in Centerville. While they can’t confirm the two cases are related, they say Ricks’ body was found in an area on the way to Half Moon Lake, where the Harrisons ultimately surrendered to police.

“This is a horrible incident,” Johnson said. “This is not... by everything that I understand, this guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and some awful people took advantage of him.”

Authorities plan to bring in scuba divers and sonar gear to search for the truck beneath the surface of several lakes in the area.

Sgt. Katherine Peterson with Sublette County Sheriff’s Office says surveillance footage may show the two men in the UTA truck, but they haven't confirmed that detail as of yet.

"We've had some tips coming in from our citizens stating they have seen the truck in Pinedale as early as Thursday evening, but we are still waiting to confirm those,” she said.

Ricks’ body is on its way back to Utah. An autopsy will be performed at the medical examiner's office in Salt Lake City. Several UTA employees were escorting the body on the journey as a show of respect.