The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

National News

July 17, 2012

Official: Colo murder suspect tried to steal plane

SALT LAKE CITY — A SkyWest Airlines pilot suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend stole an empty 50-passenger jet from a small Utah airport, crashed it as he drove near a terminal, then was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said Tuesday.

Brian Hedglin, 40, used a rug to scale the razor wire-topped security fence at the St. George Municipal Airport overnight Tuesday and drove off with the SkyWest jet, St. George city spokesman Marc Mortenson said.

Hedglin clipped a wing on the terminal building and crashed into cars in a parking lot, Mortenson said. The plane never left the ground.

A police officer making rounds around 12:50 a.m. found a motorcycle with the engine running just outside the perimeter fence. As he searched the grounds for the owner, the officer came upon the idling plane and called SkyWest, Mortenson said.

The airline sent an employee to turn off the engine, he said. Inside, Hedglin was found with a gunshot wound to his head.

It wasn’t clear how Hedglin, who was a certified pilot, was able to access the plane. Mortenson said the airport is surrounded by six miles of perimeter fencing. He noted the facility meets all Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration requirements.

Mortenson said the entire perimeter isn’t observed at all times, “and I would dare say it isn’t at any airport in the country.”

SkyWest has not indicated whether Hedglin flew for the airline, but authorities said he was a pilot for the airline. Federal aviation records show he was a pilot rated to fly commercial planes.

Hedglin also held a flight instructor rating for single-engine planes that was issued in 1998, but it expired in February 2000. The records don’t indicate if he had any experience flying the type of jet used Tuesday.

In a statement, the airline said Tuesday’s incident involved one of its employees who had been on administrative leave.

Hedglin was also a member of the Colorado National Guard, where he was a part-time soldier who worked as a cook. He had no specialized military training and was never deployed, Capt. Darin Overstreet said.

Hedglin was wanted in the killing of Christina Cornejo, 39, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Her body was found Friday by police doing a welfare check at the request of her family. Authorities say she had been stabbed multiple times.

The Gazette of Colorado Springs, citing court records, reported that Hedglin dated Cornejo for four years and was arrested in March after police say he had been harassing her. The newspaper said he was free on $10,000 bond when Cornejo was found dead.

Colorado Springs police said they had contacted SkyWest officials and asked them to deactivate his access cards in case he showed up at the airline anywhere in the country.

SkyWest officials said the CRJ200 plane was not in service at the time. The aircraft is made by Bombardier and is capable of flying up to 534 mph with a range of 1,700 miles. Normally it has a two-person flight crew and a single flight attendant.

The small southern Utah airport about 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas remained closed to commercial traffic as the FBI and the TSA investigated the incident.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Bertram said there was no ongoing public safety issue and law enforcement had secured the scene. She did not return calls to The Associated Press later in the day.

A dozen flights leave or arrive at the St. George airport each weekday, according to the airport’s website. Most run between southern Utah and Salt Lake City, with two flights connecting St. George and Los Angeles.

 

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