Fleeing from police nets probation, jail time

WATSEKA — A Rankin man admitted Monday that he fled from police when they spotted him and another man stealing anhydrous ammonia from a fertilizer storage area near Cissna Park last fall.

Dewey Couch Jr., 53, pleaded guilty in Iroquois County Circuit Court to one count of aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, a Class 4 felony, and was sentenced to 30 months of probation and 180 days in the county jail.

In return for Couch's plea — and his cooperation in testifying against a co-defendant — the state's attorney's office agreed to dismiss more serious charges of unlawful possession of anhydrous ammonia, unlawful possession of anhydrous ammonia in an unauthorized container and tampering with anhydrous ammonia equipment.

Couch's co-defendant, Chris M. Hofbauer, 29, also of Rankin, has pleaded innocent and has a pretrial hearing scheduled for March 7.

The two men, who both listed the same address in Rankin, were charged with multiple felonies in October in connection with the theft of anhydrous ammonia on Oct. 19 at Crop Production Services, rural Cissna Park.

Sheriff Derek Hagen said deputies had been watching the facility in an effort to curb a recent increase in the theft of anhydrous ammonia, an ingredient commonly used in the illegal production of methamphetamine.

After police saw the theft occur, the two men fled in a 1995 Geo Tracker and a 7-minute chase ensued.

Hagen said Couch was driving the vehicle and tried eluding police by going through a field. However, the vehicle ended up getting stuck by some railroad tracks.

Both men then ran, and Hofbauer was apprehended immediately, Hagen said. Couch was found several hours later by Vermilion County sheriff's deputies as he was walking toward Rankin.

As part of his probation, Couch will be required to submit to drug testing. In addition, he must pay a $500 fine plus court costs.

Couch was given 90 days' credit for time already served at the county jail.

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