VENTURA, CA (AP) – A man suspected of raping a 14-year-old he lured to a motel on social media was fleeing from police on a Southern California freeway Wednesday when he drank cyanide as he drove and killed himself, authorities said.
The slumped-over man’s car careened down U.S. 101 in Ventura before crashing.
Officers had been chasing Jonathan Hanks, 33, of Camarillo, for six miles when they saw him drink from a bottle. His car then drove onto the right shoulder of the freeway, drifted across all northbound lanes and then came to a stop after bumping the center median, authorities said.
The drifting car had officers first thinking Hanks may have shot himself, but an on-scene test of the empty bottle led authorities to conclude he had consumed a mixture of salt and potassium cyanide.
The CHP had gotten calls during the chase indicating Hanks was going to kill himself, CHP Investigator Christopher Terry told KABC-TV , without elaborating.
Ninette Toosbuy, a sex crimes detective supervisor with the Los Angeles Police Department, told the Ventura County Star that Hanks had no criminal record before the sexual assault investigation, but there was physical evidence supporting a mother’s claims that he had lured the girl to a Los Angeles motel via Snapchat and raped her on Feb. 4.
“This morning, we were planning on executing a search warrant and to take him into custody and arrest him,” Toosbuy said.
But Hanks somehow realized detectives were coming and fled in his Nissan Versa, authorities said.
Police summoned the California Highway Patrol for help, and officers found him driving north on the 101 about 50 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. He refused to pull over and led officers on the six-mile chase, CHP Officer Kevin Denharder said.
After it stopped, the black Nissan was surrounded by fire and police vehicles, including an armored SWAT truck.
A team led by a firefighter in a gas mask broke a window of the car and pulled Hanks out.
His body could be seen lying on the freeway next to the car under a blanket soon after.