LAWTON, Iowa | Casey Willer was at a loss for words Friday when he walked outside to find his semi-truck missing, and a Pizza Ranch van left in its place.
Willer, owner of Willer Farm two miles east of Lawton, was sitting in his office when he heard his truck’s engine come to life.
“I figured it was a hired hand taking it to Sioux City to get washed,” Willer said. But when he looked over to his grain bin site, he found the yellow pizza van instead.
“When did our hire start driving a Pizza Ranch van?” Willer said he wondered.
Turns out, the van was stolen from the Pizza Ranch restaurant in Sheldon, Iowa.
Willer said he was now part of an ongoing saga after a man from Minnesota allegedly stole the pizza van and fled south, apparently to Willer’s farm 60 miles away.
Ditching the van, the thief traded up to the Peterbilt semi tractor, complete with an attached grain carrier.
“He didn’t even leave us any pizza to eat,” Willer noted.
Willer’s wife, Landie Janssen Willer, took to social media, posting a picture of the maroon 2000 Peterbilt on Facebook, asking friends to share and keep an eye out for it.
By 5 p.m., the post had been shared more than 800 times, with people vowing to catch the suspect.
Deputy David Benson with the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect is believed to have left a hospital in Minnesota, being involved in a scuffle with security officers while trying to leave against medical advice.
Later in the morning Willer received a phone call saying his truck had been spotted around noon more than 230 miles away -- in St. Joseph, Mo.
An electrical contractor in St. Joseph called Willer to complain his truck had hit some equipment in town.
“Our name is on the side of the truck. I had to tell him we’ve been trying to find the damn thing,” Willer said. "All this crap, plus it's my wife's 30th birthday today."
Benson said dealing with a fleeing suspect in a semi-truck is a scary thing.
“It’s hard to stop. You can’t spike strip it. Who knows what’s going on in that guy’s head,” Benson said.
St. Joseph police Capt. Jeff Wilson said Friday evening that the Peterbilt had been seen in his city, but had not been located.
Around 8 p.m., the Willers received word the suspect was arrested near Kansas City, Mo. But their truck and trailer is still missing.
An employee at the Sheldon Pizza Ranch confirmed the restaurant has gotten its van back