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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 4 - 10, 2003


Citizens help arrest fugitive from jail

Express Staff Writer

Speaking from his hot rod and Harley shop on Elm Street in Hailey, Phil Huff of Phil’s Motor Service Tuesday told the story of stopping a Blaine County escapee.

Huff helped Hailey Police Officer Jeff Laybourne and Bellevue Marshal Randy Tremble apprehend fugitive-for-a-day, Travis Sprenger, 33, of Twin Falls, at approximately 6 p.m.

Travis Sprenger

Sprenger escaped Monday morning at about 11 a.m. after appearing in 5th District Court to face charges of violating parole. He broke free from bailiff Russ Pogni while still in handcuffs as he was being escorted out the back door of the county courthouse to the county jail 125 yards away.

Pogni immediately called for backup and a perimeter to the east of the courthouse was secured for two hours as authorities searched for Sprenger.

"Officers told me about the escape," said Huff. "It crossed my mind that the gentleman might stop by to see if he could have his cuffs removed. I thought it might be prudent to put my revolver in my belt."

Sprenger is a repeat offender, who since 1990 has spent a total of four years in the state penitentiary in Boise and one year in Blaine County custody. Until Monday, he had been on parole for a 1998 grand theft charge for robbing a vehicle at a trailhead north of Ketchum.

At the Monday morning trial Judge James J. May imposed the original sentence for the 1998 crime: five years in prison. Parole was not an option in the first three years of the sentence, said Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas.

"As he reached the first step he made a break," said Thomas. "I think after this we will revisit our security policy."

As a multiple offender Sprenger risked being handed a life sentence for escaping, said Thomas.

"I would like him to see big time in prison to protect society," he said. "But, we probably won’t seek life."

Thomas thought there had been three such escapes he could recall.

After authorities broke off the neighborhood search, Sprenger was still at large.

When Sprenger popped up Monday afternoon, Huff saw him peering into the back of a 1951 delivery sedan that belongs to Huff’s son. He knew immediately it was Sprenger who moved off toward the Garland Meadows town homes after he realized he was being watched, Huff said.

Huff pursued Sprenger and called the Hailey police on his cell phone.

Another Elm street resident Eric Larson, who also recognized the manacled fugitive and was pursuing Sprenger on his mountain bike, said he pointed Laybourne in the right direction as Huff continued after Sprenger.

Laybourne and Huff converged on Sprenger on the bike path near Fox Acres.

Laybourne ran him down, said Huff.

"As I approached I drew my gun," he said. "Jeff ordered him to spread his legs saying, ‘Don’t move or I’ll shoot.’ Then he holstered his weapon."

Huff said he held his gun on Sprenger as Laybourne handcuffed him this time with his hands behind his back.

"Marshal Randy Tremble arrived down the bike path in his Bellevue SUV," said Huff.

Tremble drove Sprenger to the county jail where he was booked and charged with escaping.

"In retrospect, in court (Monday) he appeared high on drugs," said Thomas. "He has a history of methamphetamine use."

Sprenger was arraigned first thing Tuesday morning and was escorted to the Blaine County jail—this time he was wearing leg irons and is still in custody.

He will have a preliminary hearing in County Magistrate Court within 14 days.



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