On January 27, 2017, around 9:15 a.m, a 69-year-old Sedona man noticed a hitchhiker with a backpack near the Bell Rock area in the Village of Oak Creek, who looked like he had spent a cold night sleeping outside. The man, soon to become a victim, picked up the hitchhiker who claimed he was trying to get to Mexico.
The victim offered to buy the hitchhiker, identifying himself as ‘Rico,’ breakfast and did so at a nearby café. He then offered to stop by his bank and provide Rico $20 to help with expenses. Because it was cold and windy outside, the victim left his car running in the bank parking lot with the heat on and Rico inside. When the victim exited the bank, the car and Rico were gone. The vehicle was a maroon 2002 Mercury Sable.
A Yavapai County Sheriff’s deputy immediately broadcast the stolen vehicle information and suspect description to area deputies and entered license plate number into a national law enforcement record system. The vehicle also contained a computer and $500 worth of power tools.
At approximately 3 p.m. on January 27, Yavapai County Sheriff’s deputies were notified that the vehicle was located on the south side of Phoenix travelling on the I-10 heading towards Mexico. The driver failed to yield to DPS officers for at least 19 miles before spike strips were deployed. The driver then continued another 20 miles without inflated left side tires until he eventually stopped. He was identified as Ricardo Munoz Ayala, 31, from Phoenix, arrested and booked at the Pima County Detention center on charges including Unlawful Flight from Law Enforcement, Endangerment, Unlawful Use of a Vehicle, Suspended Driver’s License, and Criminal Damage.
The victim said he thought he “sized him up” really well and that he was a good guy.