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How a wanted fugitive from Kansas was caught in southern Utah

Posted at 10:36 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 00:55:40-04

TORREY, Utah — John Freeman Colt, a dangerous sex offender who escaped from a state mental hospital in Kansas, was captured Monday night in southern Utah after being on the run since June.

The story isn’t that simple, however.

Torrey is at the base of Capitol Reef National Park, and everyone in town knows the Chuckwagon — which is why when a stranger from out of town showed up, he was welcomed with open arms.

“We were just out front here on the bench of the Chuckwagon,” the man who put all the pieces together told FOX 13, not wanting his name or face to be public. “This guy approaches us and says, 'Do you guys know of anyone that could give me any work? I'm looking to maybe get a couple hundred bucks.'"

That man was Colt.

The Chuckwagon was in fact looking for someone to help out with random jobs, so they hired him on.

“He worked for us for a solid two months. He was hanging out with us every day," the man said.

Colt told the locals that his name was Jason Holt, close to his real name but not enough to raise any red flags.

Why would it, anyway? Kansas is a long way away from Torrey, Utah.

“We just clicked as best friends. We drove everywhere,” another man told FOX 13. "We explored the whole county. We did everything, and I never got that bad vibe.”

Those who befriended him never really thought much of him or his past, not EVER thinking that the man they knew as Jason could be a wanted fugitive.

Both of the people we spoke to said Colt was inside their homes multiple times. His best friend even said Colt was great with his kids and attended his daughter's birthday party.

“He was going to birthday parties with me and fishing with me,” he said. "He just acted like a normal guy.”

The other individual who eventually put two and two together recalled a time where Colt stayed in his guest bedroom one night, saying he was up multiple times that night making noise and walking around, but he didn’t think anything of it.

Colt also stayed in the Chuckwagon’s shed at night, sleeping on a recliner — especially when it was raining out.

"He’d work here every day, you know, go in there to cool off," one of the men said. "I was like, 'Well, you’ve been hanging out in the shed; you’re more than welcome to stay in there.'”

Colt often stayed during the monsoon rains that are frequent this time of year in Torrey.

He also had a campsite a few miles outside of town where he also stayed sometimes.

Things were perfectly normal with no signs of trouble until Monday, when the man who first met Colt says he saw his picture on the FOX 13’s Facebook page — to his surprise, on a wanted poster from the U.S. Marshals Service. He called the sheriff's office right away.

“Shortly before 6 p.m., we received a phone call from a citizen in Torrey,” Wayne County Sheriff Dan Jensen said. "He said he’d seen this gentleman on the news.”

Police wasted no time jumping into action. The man who called them said within four hours, Colt was in custody.

But the arrest didn’t exactly go according to plan, according to the sheriff. His deputies, along with the Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau, Sevier County deputies and Utah Highway Patrol troopers, staged a few miles away to plan how to go about arresting Colt.

“While we were in our staging area coming up with a plan to approach the camp,” Jensen said, “Mr. Colt drove by on his motorcycle. He led us on a short pursuit, about two miles, speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. A deputy was able to get ahead of him. He pulled over and surrendered.”

Those who got to know him shared a video of Colt dancing. In it, Colt is wearing the same shirt in the wanted poster.

All of this was hard to believe for the man who says they became friends, but there was one thing that he said was odd.

“It kind of did click to me, because he mentioned he had kids in Kansas,” that man said, “and I am like, 'Why don’t you contact your kids?' He is like, 'It's just more important to stay away from the kids.'"

Colt is now behind bars.

“He was definitely a danger to the public," Jensen said. "Anytime we can get a sexual predator off the streets is a good day.”

The Grand County Sheriff’s Office told FOX 13 they are aware of Colt, and separately said they are looking into all tips and leads related to the murder of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner. However, they say they have not made a connection between them.