Road to nowhere
An aimless adrenaline ride to Big Sky
Show Place in Belgrade is a dead-end court lined with small apartment buildings and filled with cars. For someone on drugs who allegedly stole a vehicle in Billings and started to run out of gas in Belgrade, this quiet residential street looked like it held opportunity.
Around dawn on Thursday, April 19, a Show Place resident went outside to warm up her white 2003 Honda Accord. It sat idling in the early morning sunshine a block away from Belgrade Middle School.
Then, just before the sidewalks filled with school kids and one step ahead of any nosy neighbors, someone drove off in the Accord.
“This morning a lady in Belgrade went back outside and her vehicle was gone,” said Capt. Don Peterson with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. An incident report details how “a witness subsequently called 911 and reported the theft to law enforcement.” When the Belgrade Police Department responded to the scene, they found a 2012 Ford Escape—which was reported stolen from a car dealership in Billings.
“We suspect the subject was looking for a new car. Saw it running and saw an opportunity and took it,” continued Capt. Peterson.
Not long afterward, a highway patrolman spotted the Accord on Jackrabbit Lane and began “a high-speed pursuit with the defendant” as the suspect merged off of Jackrabbit eastbound onto I-90 and then off again at the airport interchange.
Two patrol cars from the Belgrade Police Department joined the chase, as the Accord looped back to Jackrabbit Lane. There, according to an incident report, “The defendant operated the Honda at speed (sic) approaching 120 mph in moderate traffic and through a construction zone.” It then raced into the mouth of Gallatin Canyon where Highway 191 crosses the Gallatin River.
The Accord was headed for Big Sky—home to one of Montana’s dead-end highways. The officers in pursuit pulled back once they reached the canyon for fear a chase would cause a head-on collision.
As Capt. Peterson later explained, in the canyon, “You’ve got enough crazy drivers. You don’t need ‘em coming at you at 100 mph in the wrong lane, right?”
BIG SKY BOUND
Roughly twenty miles ahead of the Accord, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Slingsby scanned every passing white sedan extra closely. He waited in Big Sky for the white Accord to emerge from the canyon. Other officers with Yellowstone National Park and West Yellowstone also went on alert, as did a highway patrolman who happened to be at Moonlight Basin.
There’s no official estimate of how quickly the suspect navigated Gallatin Canyon, but it was likely fast. When the Accord rolled into Big Sky, the car apparently traveled past the turn off at the light by the Conoco and carried on to the south, but didn’t make it far before it was spotted by Deputy Slingsby.
“A Big Sky deputy found him I believe down by Buck’s T-4,” recalled Capt. Peterson. “(Slingsby) Got into a pursuit down there. Kind of lost him. Again, because of speeds down there, the deputy backed off.”
Soon afterward—sometime around 8 a.m.—the Accord was spotted by someone near Big Sky Resort.
In a press release, the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office later reported, “Security personnel witnessed the vehicle enter the area and kept eyes on the vehicle until it began traveling back down” Lone Mountain Trail, also known as Highway 64.
This is when Trooper Cody Ruane joined the chase. He spotted the Accord driving in the wrong lane, endangering oncoming traffic. Ruane was struck by the sight because at the time, the suspect was not clearly being pursued. Still, the driver was indulging in a game of chicken, occupying the left lane of the two-lane road, said Ruane.
The car was swerving “back and forth and jerking around putting everyone in danger,” according to the trooper. Ruane, along with Sheriff’s Deputy Douglas W. Lieurance, began pursuit and at around 8:20 a.m., motorists and bystanders in Westfork Meadows and Town Center witnessed what looked like a Hollywood car chase as the Accord sped downhill past Gallatin Alpine Sports and Big Pine Drive.
The traffic light at Ousel Falls Road lay ahead and Trooper Ruane accelerated into the intersection in order to prevent the Accord from making a high-speed right turn.
“I went to the right to keep him from going into that Town Center,” recalled Ruane, who figured more motorists and pedestrians would be endangered if the Accord were to careen onto Ousel Falls Road and speed through a densely populated part of the community. Also, a road block waited ahead at the intersection with Little Coyote Road.
So the chase continued down Lone Mountain Trail, when it appeared the driver inside the Accord saw patrol vehicles blocking his way. That’s why he decided to take the Accord off-road as Ruane and Deputy Lieurance closed in from behind. Lieurance later described the chase past Roxy’s and the Big Sky Medical Center like this: “After continuing into the Meadow area of Big Sky, the vehicle turned off the road into the grassy golf course area.” (A comment that evening on Facebook read simply, “Poor golf course.”)
The law enforcement officers in pursuit followed and all three vehicles steered around the corner over Little Coyote Bridge and past ball fields in Community Park before racing through the neighborhood.
Witnesses watching from across the golf course near the 3 Rivers Communications office on Skywood Road saw the Accord skid into a ditch on Little Coyote. For an instant, it looked like the pursuit might end there. But the Accord returned to the pavement, barreling toward four-year-old Frank Daily, who was safely at home, watching.
“He ran in and said, ‘I just saw a cop go by with his sirens on. There were three of them,’” recalled Frank’s mom Jodi Daily, who said the excitement made Frank’s day. Observing how Big Sky is an ill-advised location to stage a high-speed getaway, Jodi said, “This is the silliest place to come. No place to go.”
After passing the Daily’s home, Trooper Ruane said the Accord continued to endanger the public, with one motorist hitting the gas in a panic to get out of the way. Ruane and Lieurance followed the Accord back onto Lone Mountain Trail, past Lone Mountain Ranch and into Madison County, putting more lives on the line with each bend in the highway.
“He wasn’t driving with a normal state of mind,” recalled Ruane, describing how the Accord continued to cross the center line.
Just before mile marker eight, the Accord went wide, into the oncoming lane. A truck appeared, heading for what looked to be a head-on collision in the making, said Ruane. But the suspect slammed on the breaks at the last minute and avoided a crash.
This breaking maneuver by the suspect, said Ruane, allowed the trooper to slingshot ahead. So suddenly, the Montana Highway Patrol and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office had the Accord boxed in, with Lieurance in back and Ruane upfront.
“The guy did not want to be between us,” said Ruane.
Watching from the rear, Lieurance witnessed Ruane move “his vehicle closer to the suspect vehicle to get it to slow down.”
This was evidently a de-escalation strategy for an out-of-control situation. But the suspect wasn’t having it, said Ruane.
“He went full-throttle in the vehicle. I could hear the engine and he accelerated into my vehicle,” stated Ruane (an assertion the suspect would later dispute). This acceleration allegedly sent both the Montana Highway Patrol car and the Accord into the guard rail. The rail may have stopped both from tumbling into the ravine separating Lone Mountain Trail from a steep descent into Beehive Creek below.
With the driver’s side of his patrol car smashed in, “Ruane managed to pull his vehicle forward of the collision as I pulled directly behind the suspect vehicle. The vehicle stopped and the driver stuck both hands outside the window as if to give up,” wrote Lieurance in his report.
“He said, ‘You got me,’” remembered Ruane, who said he came away from the crash with a strained back caused by the Accord’s blunt force impact on his patrol car.
“It’s a minor injury. It is what it is. Just a lower back injury, nothing major,” assured Ruane. He was prescribed Ibuprofen to ease the pain.
When asked if the suspect appeared drunk or on drugs at the time of his arrest, Ruane said, “His demeanor was up and down. He seemed kind of excitable and surprised to be caught.”
The suspect was ordered onto the pavement, where he was placed in cuffs. Ruane couldn’t positively confirm he was intoxicated, but “while helping the defendant to his feet, a glass smoking pipe, with burnt residue, commonly used to smoke methamphetamine fell onto the ground,” reported Deputy Lieurance, who continued to recount how, “The defendant made the comment, ‘Yeah, that just fell out of my pocket.’ As I moved him past the pipe, the defendant quickly stomped on it, crushing it into small pieces. He then said, ‘Sorry, I had to do that to keep from another charge.’”
The defendant—who had no ID and whose identity would not be confirmed for several more hours—was eventually charged with one count of tampering with evidence. That on top of assault with a weapon, two felony counts of car theft, three counts of felony endangerment and felony possession of dangerous drugs.
With the prospect of prison time looming, the defendant waited in the back of a patrol vehicle while more law enforcement arrived and secured the scene. Big Sky Fire Chief Bill Farhat managed the downhill lane of traffic, which stayed open while the right, uphill lane remained a crime scene.
For about the next 20 minutes, a black ball cap sat in place on the pavement near the road’s centerline. Skiers, job commuters and other motorists rolled slowly by, glimpsing the banged-up highway patrol car and the Accord, with its left front bumper smashed in. At some point, authorities placed the cap into evidence. Investigators later found an undisclosed amount of methamphetamine “inside the sweatband of the defendant’s ball cap,” reported Lieurance.
As he waited to be taken to the Gallatin County Detention Center in Bozeman, the unidentified defendant said something that stuck with Trooper Ruane: “He just made a statement that if he drove bad enough the police usually stop chasing him. It just shows intent. He meant to drive like a jerk to get us to stop chasing him.”
After the highway patrol took evidence photos of the scene, the defendant was transported from the crash site to a jail cell. Minutes later, Capt. Peterson spoke to the Lookout about what information was known at that time. Then, in the middle of recapping the high-speed chase—which included a number of averted highway tragedies and near misses—Capt. Peterson stopped cold and nodded toward a red fox as it bounded across the busy road. He wondered aloud if the animal might be rabid. One symptom of the disease is fearlessness.
The fox made it safely across the road, stopped, glanced over at Capt. Peterson, then bounded into the forest above Beehive Creek Drive.
FROM MISDEMEANOR TO FELONY CAR CHASE?
On Monday, April 23—four days after the harrowing car chase through Big Sky—Maurice Danaye Myers, 32, picked up the phone on the other side of the glass in the visitation room of the Gallatin County Detention Center. The walls in the facility are a calming yellow. The separation windows are trimmed in a somber gray.
Because Myers is in A Pod, designated for inmates in need of administrative segregation or observation, he was kept away from other prisoners and allowed to have the 16-stall visiting room all to himself for 30 minutes.
Earlier in the day, the local public defender’s office confirmed Myers was at the time unrepresented by counsel. He was being held on $1 million bond and he wanted to talk about what he’s experienced in the last two weeks.
In his own words, which were punctuated by tears and contrition about needing metal-health counseling, Myers claimed to have led law enforcement on seven high-speed chases during the two weeks leading up to his crash and arrest in Big Sky.
There were chases in Helena and Billings, said Myers, before he took the white Accord from a residential street in Belgrade. In a Facebook post from April 15, Myers’ delivered a disjointed account of sleeping in a Nissan Maxima he allegedly broke into at a Billings car lot.
“Lost in Billings Montana I didn’t walk it out and came here a few days ago got into a high-speed chase with the cops relax everybody I just got misdemeanor tickets after having to turn myself in because I was freezing cold and hiding inside a Maxima,” wrote Myers. He went on to praise the responding officers, describing them as “pretty damn cool” considering the “high speed chase through their city at over a hundred miles an hour and was wearing a red bandana just gang Banging on everybody.”
Records show Myers was charged with two traffic violations— careless driving and fleeing or eluding a peace officer—by the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, April 14. He was driving a maroon Chevy and presented an “ID only” listing his home address as Leslie Avenue in Helena. Myers was not arrested at the time.
When contacted on April 20 by the Lookout—a day after the chase through Big Sky—Billings Police Department Spokesperson Tom Keightley said there is a subset offender known for indulging in car chases.
“We have some people who are notorious for running from us,” said Keightley. However, the Billings PD has no record of past run-ins with Myers.
On April 23—the day he was interviewed in the Gallatin County Detention Center—Myers was supposed to appear in Yellowstone County Justice Court and face the careless driving and eluding charges. He also claimed to have outstanding warrants from Helena for theft and a protective order.
Speaking through the wall phone on his side of the glass, Myers offered a stream of unverified anecdotes about a Chevy Impala bursting into flames and outrunning a security guard at a business with modular homes on display. He also claimed to have tried to jump through a window at Burger King.
At one point, Myers expressed pride in his driving abilities, insisting, “I love driving. I have a gift with the wheel.”
But at other moments in the interview, he downshifted toward regret, describing a lonely existence with no support from friends and family.
“I don’t really have anybody,” he said, tearing up. “I feel like nobody cares.”
When asked about seeking mental health counseling, Myers nodded in agreement and again became weepy, saying, “I snap. I have snaps.”
To Big Sky, he offered this: “I regret that I put lives at stake. I apologize for running through their town like an (a-hole). I need help.”