Milburn manhunt ends with fugitives in custody
By Robert Stevens
MILBURN—Two fugitives from Wyoming who fired on local law enforcement were captured in Milburn last week during a two-day manhunt that became a large-scale cooperative effort between multiple local and out-of-area law enforcement agencies.
“We would like to thank all of the law enforcement agencies involved in the search,” said the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) in an announcement after apprehending the suspects. “We would also like to thank the public for their diligence in being alert and providing leads, which were crucial in locating the fugitives.”
Brett Gilman Johnson, 51, and Jamie Wheeler, 41, (also known as Jamie Carol
Cleghorn, as well as other aliases) were captured at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8 in the Milburn area. The pair were wanted in Gillette, Wyo. for robbing 17 storage centers. When law enforcement in Sanpete got word the fugitives were staying at a residence in Milburn owned by Wheeler’s family, two SCSO deputies and a Fairview police officer visited the house to serve the pair warrants.
Upon arrival at the residence at approximately 8:45 a.m., the deputies and Fairview officer were fired on once, from what authorities would later discover to be a 9mm handgun. It is unclear which of the fugitives fired at this time.
According to SCSO Detective Derick Taysom, after being fired on, the deputies and officer did not return fire, and fell back to regroup, during which time Johnson and Wheeler were seen by witnesses fleeing the residence into the thickly-wooded hills to Milburn’s east.
Right off the bat, residents of the area were warned by law enforcement that the suspects were armed and dangerous.
When the Messenger arrived on the scene at approximately 10 a.m., a steady stream of law enforcement professionals were arriving to assist in the search, including the Department of Public Safety, Utah County Sheriff’s Office and SWAT team, Snow College Police, Ephraim Police, Fairview Police, Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Department of Corrections.
“In a situation like this, if you have the time, it is always better and safer to bring in more people trained in apprehending people like this, in these environments,” Taysom said.
At first, they used a Fairview gas station as an initial meeting and staging area, and moved the staging area closer to the residence within a couple hours. Ambulances and an AirMed helicopter arrived at the Milburn staging area to be on hand in the event of any injuries.
Throughout the day, authorities began to methodically comb the large woods and hills for the suspects. Several aircraft searched from above. As the day wore on, the containment area was expanded.
The area and environment of the search created a very real challenge in apprehending the suspects, says Taysom.
“The terrain made it very difficult, with so much thick brush, steep
inclines and such a big total area to search,” Taysom said.
One Milburn resident told the Messenger on the first day of the manhunt that he “hoped it was all over by night, or else he would have to sleep with one eye open.”
The first day of the manhunt came and went without finding the suspects, but the search built steam again right away the next morning, with Utah County SWAT taking charge of tactical searches of the area by methodically searching separate quadrants of the area in a process of elimination.
During the time of the search, a number of tips and leads came in from residents in the area, such as the discovery of sets of footprints on someone’s property where they should not have been. These tips, combined with some traditional tracking methods, ultimately led them to the suspects on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 8.
Taysom says the discovery of the fugitives resulted in their capture without incident approximately three-quarters of a mile northwest of the residence they originally fled from, having moved around the area several miles at least, under cover of brush and eventually nightfall. But, they were not able to escape.
The pair were taken and booked into Sanpete County Jail on charges of attempted aggravated murder, felon in possession of firearm, obstruction of justice, discharge of a firearm, criminal trespass and more.
Johnson and Wheeler aren’t just in trouble in Wyoming. In the weeks leading up to the manhunt, an Ogden-area bail bondsman put out a $1,000 for each of them, saying they were wanted for multiple other drug, fraud and burglary related charges.
Wheeler has a long history of fraud and identity theft. According to probable cause statement, she was known to sometimes have multiple fraudulent IDs she created by stealing identities. She has been charged with dozens of fraud, forgery and identity theft related counts in Utah.