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Police chase leads to cornfield manhunt

EMERY -- A Sioux Falls man surrendered to authorities Friday in a cornfield northeast of Emery, a few hours after he fled from his vehicle during a high-speed pursuit.

Jonathan Stahl, 39, is charged with aggravated eluding, a felony with a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine, as well as reckless driving, and driving without a valid driver's license, both misdemeanors.

South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Casey Bassett said on Monday that Stahl fled during a routine traffic stop for speeding at about 2:40 p.m. Friday on Highway 262. Stahl fled north on Highway 25, between Emery and Alexandria, then turned east on 258th Street, a gravel road, before his vehicle got stuck in standing water on 258th Street between 433rd Avenue and 434th Avenue, Bassett said. Stahl allegedly reached speeds as high as 80 mph during the chase, which lasted only about 10 minutes.

After his vehicle got stuck, Stahl fled on foot into a cornfield to the south, less than five miles northeast of Emery, Bassett said. Eventually, as many as 10 officers from various agencies -- the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Game, Fish and Parks Department, and the sheriff's offices in Hanson and McCook counties -- arrived at the scene and formed a perimeter around the cornfield.

At about 4 p.m., more than an hour after the vehicle pursuit ended, one of the officers spotted Stahl entering a small cornfield about a quarter of a mile to the south of his vehicle's location, and another perimeter was set up, Bassett said.

At about 5 p.m., authorities attempted to make contact with Stahl using a loudspeaker. About five minutes later, Stahl was spotted and peacefully surrendered. The Highway Patrol's helicopter had been called in to do an aerial search of the area, but Stahl surrendered before it arrived, Bassett said.

Stahl may have fled, Bassett said, because he believed he was driving drunk.

"He had consumed some alcoholic beverages, but it doesn't appear he was under the influence at the time I tried to stop him," Bassett said. "When we took him into custody, he didn't have any alcohol in his system."