Columbus carjacking ends after I-65 chase, Jackson County arrest

A former professional baseball player from Illinois was arrested after he was accused of carjacking a vehicle from a west-side Columbus gas station and leading Indiana State Police troopers on a pursuit into Jackson County.

Columbus police were sent to the 3300 block of West Jonathan Moore Pike at noon Sunday, when they spoke with person who said an unknown man approached with his hand in his jacket as if he were holding a firearm, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman.

The man threatened to harm the vehicle owner if he did not give the suspect — later identified as Matthew Kuecher, 33, of Orland Park, Illinois, a southern Chicago suburb — the keys to a Dodge Caravan.

Afterward, Indiana State Police Trooper Bryce Harris saw Kuecher driving south in the Caravan on Interstate 65 about five miles south of Seymour. When the trooper attempted to stop the vehicle, a pursuit began at speeds up to 100 mph.

After an eight-mile chase on southbound I-65, Kuecher left the interstate at the U.S. 31 exit in Jackson County, where he was stopped by Harris and fellow Trooper Matt Halley, police said.

Investigators said they are investigating whether Kuecher owned the vehicle he was driving when he got to Columbus, and whether it had run out of gas, Harris said.

Kuecher was on the roster for the 2004 Windy City Thunderbolts, a professional baseball team based in Crestwood, Illinois.

Kuecher was taken to the Bartholomew County Jail on preliminary charges of felony auto theft, felony intimidation, and misdemeanor battery, police said. Officials in Jackson County are considering additional charges against Kuecher of resisting law enforcement in a vehicle and reckless driving, police said.

He is being held in the Bartholomew County Jail in lieu of $18,500 bond, jail officials said.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.