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Man charged in killing of Santaquin police officer could face death penalty

Michael Jayne has been charged with nine felonies.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Members of the Orem Fire Department salute the hearse containing the body of Santaquin police Sgt. Bill Hooser following ceremonies at the UCCU Center at Utah Valley University in Orem on Monday, May 13, 2024.

The man accused of killing a Santaquin police officer when he intentionally crashed a semitruck into the officer this month was charged Tuesday with nine felonies — and could face the death penalty.

Michael Aaron Jayne, 42, was charged in 4th District Court with one count of aggravated murder, one count of attempted aggravated murder, and one count of aggravated kidnapping, all first-degree felonies.

He was also charged with one count of burglary and three counts of theft, both second-degree felonies; and one count of failure to respond to officers, a third-degree felony.

The aggravated murder charge is a capital offense, which means if found guilty, Jayne could be sentenced to death, life in prison without parole, or 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Before the fatal crash, authorities were dispatched to Interstate 15 early May 5 after a report that someone was riding on the back of a semitruck, police have said.

According to the charging documents filed Tuesday, prosecutors say Jayne called police himself to report that someone was riding on the back of his truck.

Santaquin police Sgt. Bill Hooser caught up to the truck near the northbound I-15 exit to Santaquin’s Main Street, the charging documents state. There, Hooser turned on his patrol vehicle’s lights and sirens and pulled Jayne over. A Utah Highway Patrol trooper soon arrived, parking near Hooser.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) A Santaquin police car is adorned with flowers and messages for Sgt. Bill Hooser, Monday, May 6, 2024. Hooser was killed when authorities say a man intentionally crashed a semitruck into him.

When Hooser approached the semitruck, a woman jumped out of the cabin. She told police she had been willingly riding with Hooser until they had an argument at a truck stop in Beaver. Hooser tried to convince her to stay with him, but she said she only agreed when he threatened her with a knife and bear spray, the charging documents state. The woman told Hooser she feared that Jayne would hurt her.

The UHP trooper then tried to open Jayne’s door, but he locked it, put the truck in gear and started driving north again, according to charging documents.

As Hooser and the trooper ran to their vehicles, Jayne made a sharp U-turn and “accelerated quickly” toward them, the charging documents state.

Hooser tried to take cover, but the truck struck him, “smashing him” into the UHP trooper’s vehicle, the documents state. The 50-year-old police sergeant died at the scene.

Jayne then steered toward the woman who had jumped out of his truck, but she and the trooper were able to leap out of the way, the documents state.

After the crash, Jayne ran from the semitruck to a nearby convenience store, where he stole another truck. He continued to abandoned and steal several vehicles until he was eventually spotted and taken into custody after a police pursuit in Vernal, which ended with Jayne crashing the vehicle he was driving.

He was hospitalized after his arrest and was booked into the Utah County jail on Saturday, where he remains held without bail.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Santaquin police Lt. Mike Wall speaks during funeral services for Santaquin police Sgt. Bill Hooser at the UCCU Center at Utah Valley University on Monday, May 13, 2024.

Public records indicate Jayne has a lengthy criminal history beginning as early as 2001. In 2009, he was convicted of assault in a case where prosecutors said he ran over an Oregon police officer.

Hooser was raised in Utah and had worked with the Santaquin Police department since 2017. He is survived by his wife of 29 years, two daughters and a new granddaughter.

At his funeral Monday, he was remembered as a loving “girl dad,” a doting grandfather and a talented, training-focused police officer.

Representatives from police departments and county sheriff’s offices across Utah, as well as federal and state agencies, attended the service. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes sat with Gov. Spencer Cox and Santaquin officers. And some officers came from out of state to pay their respects, including a group from Idaho’s Ada County Sheriff’s Office.

“There are heroes all amongst us every day doing this kind of work,” Cox said at the service. “This thin blue line is real. It is the line between order and chaos. It is the line between good and evil. And every day those of you who wear the badge step into that breach, step into that line.”