A man from Washington state who crashed a stolen car, fatally injuring his girlfriend, while leading law enforcement officers in a high-speed chase has been convicted of second-degree murder.
A Yolo County jury on Friday also found Thomas Phillip Leae of Renton, Wash., guilty of evading police causing death and vehicle theft, according to a Yolo County District Attorney’s Office news release.
On Oct. 5, 2015, Leae stole a 1999 Honda in Auburn, Wash. He and his girlfriend, 18-year-old Ailiana Siufanua of Des Moines, Wash., used the vehicle to conduct surveillance and later rob and murder a jewelry store owner in Vancouver, Wash., on Nov. 25, 2015. Siufanua entered the store with a loaded gun and shot the owner when he tried to resist, the news release said. Surveillance video of the robbery showed Siufanua taking cash, jewelry and silver antiques.
Leae was waiting outside in the Honda and drove away with the Siufanua after the robbery.
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The Vancouver Police Department alerted the media in surrounding areas and released photos of Leae and Siufanua following the murder. The pair fled south, and California Highway Patrol officers spotted the vehicle speeding late at night on southbound Interstate 5 in Glenn County.
Leae led officers on a chase through three counties at speeds reaching 110 mph, the news release said. In Arbuckle, Leae exited the freeway and his vehicle spun out due to CHP maneuvers. But he continued to evade officers, entering the freeway and traveling southbound in the northbound lanes. He drove for eight miles, with no lights, into oncoming traffic at speeds reaching 80 mph, according to the news release. CHP officers used high-powered spotlights to illuminate Leae’s vehicle in an effort to prevent a head-on collision.
Leae drove through Yolo County until he reached the Tony Diaz Memorial Rest Stop in Dunnigan and drove into the rest stop traveling 82 mph, CHP officers testified. Realizing he could not negotiate the turn, Leae slammed on his brakes and the Honda, traveling 66 mph, hit a tree at the rest stop exit, the news release said.
Siufanua, who was not wearing a seat belt, was killed, and Leae was seriously injured.
Leae is to be sentenced Nov. 7 by Yolo County Superior Court Judge David Reed, who presided over the case. Leae faces a minimum of 15 years to life in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.