Stolen Plane Found Abandoned at a Texas Airport
MARSHALL, Texas (AP) _ Authorities started a manhunt for an Arkansas prison escapee Wednesday after learning that a plane he is believed to have stolen at gunpoint in Colorado was abandoned at a small airport.
Police were notified Wednesday morning that the 1978 Piper Warrior was at the Harrison County Airport, about 140 miles east of Dallas.
The plane landed Tuesday and the pilot took a cab to a bus depot and left town, said police detective Dwight Mays.
An airport employee notified authorities Wednesday after hearing about the Colorado theft and recalling that the pilot of the Piper had acted suspiciously.
Authorities believe the plane was stolen by Charles Lloyd Patterson Sr.
Patterson has been missing since he allegedly hijacked a plane he had chartered while on a five-day prison furlough in Arkansas in April. Patterson, 47, was serving a 40-year sentence for solicitation to commit murder, theft and other charges. That plane was also found in Texas.
″We are operating on the premise that that is Patterson,″ said Ron Wolfe, FBI spokesman in Little Rock. But he said no positive identification had been made.
Irene Heim, a radio operator at the Marshall airport, said the pilot landed without using his radio. He claimed his radio was broken and that he needed fuel, she said.
″He was a real nice man,″ Ms. Heim said. ″He ate lunch with me. I didn’t know he was armed and dangerous.″
A man posing as a student pilot paid for a flight lesson on a plane owned by Dakota Ridge Aviation Inc. of Boulder, Colo., and then brandished a gun and stole the airplane from the instructor after a landing at Erie, Colo., authorities said.
Hours later, the plane landed at Woodward Airport in Oklahoma, where the man bought fuel and is believed to have stolen cash and a gun. On Monday, the plane landed at Horseshoe Bend, Ark. Nothing was believed stolen during that stop, authorities said.
Ms. Heim said the pilot gave conflicting stories about his flight plans and destination.
He told her he was taking the plane to Colorado from Tupelo, Miss., and had stopped in Little Rock, which isn’t on the way. He later said he was headed to Houston.
″I thought that was kind of strange,″ Ms. Heim said.
″He told me that the plane wasn’t flying right and he was going to go to Houston. I said, ‘I thought you were going to Colorado.’ And he said, ’I might call my boss to come and get it and get me a motel room.‴
Ms. Heim said she called him a cab and, while they waited, they had lunch.
″He said he might leave the plane here a couple of days, so don’t worry about it,″ she said. ″I asked him to put his name in the register in case of a storm or something, and he said he’d call from the motel.″
Police said he then went to a bus depot and left town.
Airport manager Bob Aiello asked Ms. Heim about the plane Wednesday, and they told Matt Matteson, a private investigator for an insurance company who has an office at the airport. Matteson recalled reading about the stolen plane.
″He was a real nice man, real polite, clean-cut,″ Ms. Heim said. ″Everything he said made sense except the names of the cities he had been in. ... I guess I should have been scared.
″And you know what? I offered him my car to go eat lunch 3/8 I’m glad he didn’t take it.″