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Police arrest fugitive who sparked manhunt following I-81 crash

Wes Bunch • Feb 19, 2014 at 9:25 PM

KINGSPORT — A Virginia fugitive who sparked an hours-long manhunt after crashing his vehicle on Interstate 81 in Sullivan County was arrested Tuesday in Kingsport by Tennessee state troopers and local police.

Michael Widneer, 30, Quarry Street, Bristol, Va., was taken into custody around 5 p.m. by the Kingsport Police Department shortly after being spotted at a construction site on Lebanon Road in Colonial Heights.

He is charged with multiple felonies, including possession of marijuana, initiation of methamphetamine and being a fugitive from justice out of Virginia. Widneer also faces charges of criminal impersonation, identity theft and resisting stop, halt and frisk.

Authorities with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, the Kingsport Police Department and the Johnson City Police Department had been searching for Widneer since he crashed his vehicle at mile marker 56 on Interstate 81 Monday morning.

Widneer allegedly fled the scene on foot before THP troopers arrived, leaving behind a bag of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and ammunition in the crashed vehicle.

A K9 unit from the JCPD was initially called in to assist with locating Widneer, a THP spokesman said.

Later Monday morning, the KPD received a report of a suspicious man attempting to hide at a construction site located near the area where the crash occurred.

At that point, the THP’s Aviation Unit was called to aid officers from several jurisdictions in the manhunt, which was eventually called off.

Investigators were notified Tuesday morning of a “very soiled and scratched white male who was acting very nervous and erratic” hiding at a separate construction site on Lebanon Road in Colonial Heights.

Investigators were told the man attempted to take a cell phone from a construction worker before he left the site.

Investigators responding to the site reportedly observed the man — later identified as Widneer — matching the witness description running down the roadway.

Widneer reportedly told a KPD officer, “I’m the guy you’re looking for” before he was taken into custody and questioned by investigators.

Following his arrest, Widneer was transported by the THP to the Sullivan County Jail, where he is being held without bond.

Authorities said Widneer will face extradition to Virginia, where he is wanted on warrants for failing to appear in court on charges of manufacturing Schedule I and Schedule II drugs.

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