A 19-year-old man’s alleged two-day crime spree ended early Monday morning with a fiery crash and a $1 million bail order.
Jose Morales Leon is alleged to have committed crimes ranging from carjacking and armed robbery to kidnapping and sexual assault throughout Santa Barbara County during this two-day period. Leon was driving an allegedly stolen Toyota Matrix when a Santa Barbara Sheriff’s deputy spotted him just after midnight on May 7. The suspect led the officer on a high-speed chase, exceeding speeds of 100 mph, but eventually lost control and crashed in a Lompoc field causing the car to ignite.
The man and his hitchhiker passenger, who was quickly released, exited the car without injury or incident, and Leon was taken in to custody.
The investigation into how he obtained the vehicle as well as the other associated crimes remains under investigation.
Monday’s arrest followed a day of pursuit by the County Sheriff’s Dept. Leon allegedly stole a car on May 5 in Salt Lake City.
After traveling the lengthy distance without stopping, the vehicle Leon was driving broke down in a Carl’s Junior parking lot off Oxnard Boulevard. The man then approached a 25-year-old woman and, at gunpoint, forced her into the passenger seat of her car. Under threat of being shot, Leon allegedly forced the woman to withdraw money from an ATM and drove her to a secluded area on Miramonte Drive and reportedly sexually assaulted her.
The woman eventually talked Leon into letting her outside the vehicle, but he remained holding her under gunpoint. As the suspect was momentarily distracted by a car pulling into a driveway across the street, the woman ran to the neighbor shouting for help. The suspect then fled the scene in the stolen car as the neighbor drove the victim downtown, where they flagged down a passing police officer.
The man eluded officers for hours and returned to his home in Santa Ynez before he was spotted driving the vehicle in Buellton, where the high-speed chase began.
Santa Barbara Police Detective LaTorre, who is heading the investigation, reported that detectives recovered the handgun in bushes on Miramonte Drive near where the victim escaped. Leon was arrested for armed carjacking, armed robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault.
– Staff Report