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Florida man found naked in NY chicken coop after car wreck, police say

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Broome County Historian Roger Luther describes alerting police to an Interstate 81 crash suspect hiding in his Kirkwood chicken coop.
Anthony Borrelli, pressconnects.com

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Returning home around noon Tuesday, Roger Luther of Kirkwood was met with a swarm of law enforcement vehicles and a helicopter was flying overhead.

As he quickly learned from news outlets, New York State Police were in the midst of a manhunt for a suspect who allegedly fled the scene of an 9:45 a.m. crash on Interstate 81. The suspect had been driving a stolen 2016 Audi from Florida.

Police arrested the suspect: John Mehne, 25, of Sarasota, Florida. He’s was charged with felony counts of first-degree robbery, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, first-degree burglary and aggravated cruelty to animals. He’s being held in the Broome County jail.

More charges are being considered and state police are still investigating.

Luther, who is Broome County’s historian, recalled Wednesday how police had alerted area residents to stay inside while the suspect was on the loose. In response to their warning, after arriving home, he closed the garage door and locked up the house.

That’s when his wife looked out a window. A man, seemingly covered in mud and unclothed, walked into view.

Luther called 911 and peeked outside another window of his home.

“The guy’s in my chicken coop, he’s totally naked and covered with mud, and he’s chasing my chickens,” Luther told the Press & Sun-Bulletin/pressconnects on Wednesday. “When I saw him in the chicken coop, I was just shaken.” 

Luther said the suspect had been crouched down. It looked like he was trying to catch the chickens.

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The coop housed seven chickens, but after Tuesday’s incident, one is unaccounted for – a trail of feathers led from the coop toward a neighboring residence.

Broome County sheriff’s deputies and the Binghamton Police Department assisted state troopers during Tuesday’s search. A K-9 unit also was employed to track down the suspect.

New York State Police said Mehne crashed on I-81 North about 3 miles north of the Pennsylvania line. The Audi became disabled after hitting a guide rail.

When traffic slowed, Mehne allegedly jumped on a van, then onto a pickup truck for about 1½ miles before fleeing into a wooded area on foot. 

After 4 p.m., authorities got a call from a resident: Mehne had allegedly been killing that resident’s chickens, and threatened the person with an axe. Then, he allegedly stole the resident’s ATV.

Police said another nearby residence was burglarized and Mehne allegedly killed a family dog inside.

While Luther was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, police vehicles converged on his property.

The suspect ran from the chicken coop, toward another wooded. A neighbor told police where to look.

Within 20 minutes, Luther said, the suspect had been caught. It was shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Mehne was treated at Binghamton General Hospital for a dog bite before being arraigned on the criminal charges. 

Luther praised the work of law enforcement officials who responded to the incident.

“This could’ve been so much worse,” he said

Follow Anthony Borrelli on Twitter @PSBABorrelli.

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