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Aggravated murder charge filed against truck driver accused of killing Utah police officer

PROVO, Utah — Prosecutors in Utah filed an aggravated murder charge Tuesday against a truck driver accused of intentionally killing a police officer during a traffic stop, but the Utah County attorney said it he has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty for the capital offense.

Michael Aaron Jayne, 42, is scheduled to make a court appearance on Wednesday to be informed of the nine felony charges, including two counts of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly trying to run over a Utah Highway Patrol trooper and a woman who Jayne is charged with kidnapping. Other charges allege Jayne stole other vehicles and broke into a house while fleeing officers following the May 5 traffic stop.

Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Gray said if, after a preliminary hearing, a judge determines prosecutors have enough evidence to go to trial and if Jayne pleads not guilty, he will have 60 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty. An aggravated murder conviction in Utah carries a penalty of at least 25 years in prison, up to life, or the death penalty.

Court documents do not list an attorney for Jayne, but Gray said he would be granted legal representation during Wednesday’s court hearing.

Gray said he would notify the public when his office decides whether to pursue the death penalty. He declined to take questions Tuesday after announcing the charges and said he would not comment on the case while it was ongoing.

Santaquin Police Sgt. Bill Hooser and Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Dustin Griffiths stopped the semitrailer at 6:30 a.m. on May 5 in Santaquin, 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City after a 911 caller who declined to identify himself reported that a person was standing on the back of a semitrailer as it traveled north on Interstate 15.

Charging documents filed Tuesday revealed that it was Jayne who made the 911 call and that he also reported members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang were after him. It’s not clear why Jayne called 911.

After the truck stopped, a woman escaped from the passenger side of the semitrailer and Jayne drove away. He made a U-turn and sped toward the officers, court records said.

Hooser was struck by the semitrailer. Griffiths and the woman were able to avoid being hit, charging documents said.

The woman told investigators that she had been riding willingly with Jayne until they argued at a truck stop in Utah. He eventually forced her back into the truck with threats of violence, court records said.

Hooser’s funeral was held on Monday in Orem.

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