WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WKRN) — A Middle Tennessee man driving a stolen U-Haul was arrested Friday morning after he led deputies from multiple agencies on a 50-mile pursuit across the Florida panhandle, according to authorities.
The alleged crime spree began on Wednesday night after Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputies said they pulled 40-year-old Joshua James Cornelius of Lebanon over for driving a motorcycle with no tag. He was also charged for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
Cornelius was given a signature bond and released from the Okaloosa County Jail the next morning. However, just after 9 p.m. Thursday, Walton County sheriff’s deputies said Cornelius kicked in the door of a business on Moll Drive in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida and stole a U-Haul.
He was spotted by security in the Watersound gated community hours later. Deputies tried to stop the U-Haul on Highway 98 in Inlet Beach, but Cornelius “refused to obey deputy commands and fled the stop,” the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies continued to pursue the vehicle north onto U.S. Highway 331, then east onto Highway 90 in DeFuniak Springs before the pursuit came to an end off Highway 81 in Ponce De Leon. Multiple spike strips were deployed along the route, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies said Cornelius ditched the stolen U-Haul in the woods and took off. However, he was “quickly tracked” by members of the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, Walton Correctional K-9 Team and Florida Highway Patrol.
At the time of his arrest, the sheriff’s office said Cornelius was wearing an ankle monitor from a bondsman out of Tennessee. Deputies later found a motorcycle stashed in the back of the U-Haul. It was the same motorcycle that had been stopped days earlier, the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies believe Cornelius may have also been involved in multiple burglaries that happened on Monday in Walton County. One incident involved the theft of construction materials in the Watersound community, according to the sheriff’s office.
Multiple charges are pending including grand theft, burglary, grand theft auto and fleeing and eluding.