Southeast Missouri family pursues car thief in 40-mile chase

Thursday, July 17, 2008

VAN BUREN, Mo. — A Fair­dealing, Mo., man facing a possible jail sentence fled from court and led a high-speed chase in a stolen car before being caught by the car owner's family and arrested.

Randall D. Hancock, 46, was in court on a probation violation when, according to officials, he told his mother he was going to the restroom and instead exited the Carter County Courthouse about 9:50 a.m. Monday.

Hancock apparently found a Buick with keys in it. He sped away with members of the owner's family in pursuit. The chase lasted about 40 miles before Hancock pulled off the road near Eminence, Mo., and ran toward a wooded area.

The vehicle, owned by Diann Bell, was sitting outside Bell Oil Co. on Ash Street.

Employees of the family-owned propane gas business witnessed the theft. The victim's brother, David, rode in the passenger seat while his son, Elijah Bell, 20, took off after the suspect in his truck.

They went west through Fremont, Mo., at about 100 mph, until the suspect turned north on a gravel road in the Peck Ranch Wildlife Management Area of the Mark Twain National Forest and was forced to slow down.

David said he got in touch with Diann Bell, who was at the Carter County Sheriff's Department. She explained the suspect escaped from the courthouse and should be unarmed.

The chase ended in Shannon County, when Hancock made his way out on Route H toward Highway 106 and stopped the car.

The suspect opened the door and jumped a fence. Elijah Bell eventually caught up with him.

David Bell helped hold the suspect down as park rangers arrived with handcuffs. Van Buren police took Hancock to a holding cell in Carter County. He was later transported to the Butler County jail.

Hancock was booked with no bond for failure to appear for violating probation, with a pending motor vehicle theft warrant as of Tuesday morning, according to Ryan Crandell, Van Buren chief of police.

Crandell declined to comment on whether he thought the Bells did the right thing, but said he was glad it worked out in the end.

The car was returned safely to the owner.

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