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Wanted man in crash, again; caught

TURLOCK -- Authorities finally caught up with Jaime Russell Neal after he tried to escape capture again Thursday afternoon and the car he was in crashed into a police vehicle before police officers chased him down on foot and handcuffed him.

Neal, 29, was wanted by Merced County sheriff's officials after he reportedly shot at a Delhi mobile home occupied by his wife and her parents early Tuesday.

Tasha Denee Curtice, 22, Neal's wife, was driving the car with Neal as her passenger Thursday when they tried to flee from Turlock police, said deputy Paul Barile, a Merced County sheriff's spokesman. Curtice was booked Thursday night at the Merced County Jail on suspicion of criminal conspiracy and aiding and abetting a wanted fugitive.

"She was helping and hiding him," Barile said. The shooting early Tuesday did not result in injuries, but it led to a high-speed chase in Merced and Stanislaus counties that ended in a crash, school closures, a house-by-house search by the Merced County sheriff's Special Weapons and Tactics team and a three-day manhunt for Neal.

On Thursday about 2:15 p.m. in Turlock, police spotted Neal in a vehicle in the area of Tuolumne and Geer roads, said police spokesman Sgt. Steven Wil- liams.

The officer was aware Neal was wanted in connection with an attempted murder investigation in Merced County, so he tried to stop the car. The driver sped off and a six-minute pursuit ensued along several residential streets.

During the chase, the fleeing vehicle struck a fire hydrant at Dels Lane and Pedras Road, Wil-liams said. The pursuit ended when the fleeing vehicle collided with a Turlock police vehicle near Georgetown Avenue and Adrian Street.

Williams said Curtice, who had stayed in the vehicle, was arrested, while Neal ran. But officers caught him near the crash site. Neal was taken into custody without further incident.

The officers reported finding a handgun and ammunition inside the vehicle.

Robert Levert, 44, said he was inside his home on Georgetown Avenue when he saw the officers arrest Neal and Curtice in front of his house.

"I was inside the living room wrapping up gifts when I heard a bunch of sirens," Levert said. "I looked outside and I saw the officers had him in handcuffs, and he was facing down. The woman had her hands in the air."

Turlock police will submit a report to the Stanislaus County district attorney's office to consider charges of felony evading a police officer in a vehicle against Curtice, along with a charge of a felon in possession of a weapon and two counts of resisting arrest for Neal.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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