UPDATE: Man who blamed big rig crash on zombies pleads guilty, maximum sentence is 5 years

MURRIETA – A 19-year-old man who stole a big rig truck in Temecula and crashed it into several cars during what he told authorities was an attempt to flee ”zombies” will get up to five years in prison, a District Attorney’s Office spokesman said today.

Jeremiah Clyde Hartline pleaded guilty on Monday at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta to a felony count each of assault with a deadly weapon, hit-and-run resulting in injury and taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, along with a sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegation.

Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall said the maximum sentence is five years, and the charges against Hartline — three felonies and a misdemeanor — will be dismissed at the June 24 sentencing hearing if the agreement continues until then. Hartline has been jailed in Murrieta since his arrest. He was denied bail.

He was arrested on suspicion of causing a chain crash on April 6 that seriously injured two people on northbound Interstate 15.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Hartline was picked up by a trucker — Daniel Martinez — in Tennessee en route to San Diego, where the long-haul driver picked up a load of strawberries.

About 6 p.m. that Saturday, Martinez parked his 18-wheeler at the CHP’s Rainbow Canyon truck inspection station along northbound I-15, according to the CHP. While Martinez was outside his tractor-trailer, making adjustments,

Hartline began to have visions of zombies coming after him, CHP Officer Nathan Baer said.

He said that Hartline was ”altered,” possibly under the influence of a controlled substance, and slid behind the wheel of the truck, throwing it into gear and accelerating onto the freeway.

“Hartline thought that zombies were chasing him and clinging to the truck,” Baer said. ”Hartline swerved the truck side-to-side to shake the zombies off.”

Less than two miles into the wild ride, near the exit to Temecula Parkway, Hartline sideswiped a Toyota Tacoma pickup, causing that vehicle to collide with a Toyota 4Runner pickup, which hit a Mercedes-Benz, according to Baer.

The Tacoma overturned, while the Mercedes and 4Runner spun into the center divider, the officer said.

The big rig veered to the left, out of control, striking a Ford Taurus and a Honda Accord before jackknifing and blocking all four traffic lanes, according to the CHP.

Baer said Hartline leapt from the semi and ran to a van that had stopped nearby, climbing inside and allegedly attempting to steal that vehicle, according to the CHP. The driver detained the young man until officers arrived, according to the CHP.

Hartline was treated for minor injuries at Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta and transported to jail.

The occupants of the Tacoma — Kyle Schlosser of San Jacinto and Sarah Small of Hemet — were seriously injured in the crash, according to Baer.

He said the occupants of the other vehicles suffered minor to moderate injuries, for which they also received treatment.

The freeway was closed for three hours for the cleanup and investigation. Baer said the load of strawberries, bound for Maryland, could not be salvaged.

Previous story, April 10

INVESTIGATION UPDATE: Big rig driver wasn’t supposed to have passenger; passenger took truck to outrun “zombies”

Debbie Ramsey

Staff Writer

TEMECULA – California Highway Patrol public information officer, Nathan Baer, released an update today (April 10) on a 6-vehicle accident involving a stolen big rig that occurred on Sat. evening, April 6 on Interstate 15 near Highway 79 in which 8 people were injured.

“The original driver of the tractor-trailer, Daniel Martinez, was driving from Tennessee to San Diego to pick up strawberries. From San Diego, Martinez was to head to Maryland. The driver told his passenger, Jerimiah Hartline, to stay in the tractor when he made some adjustments at the Rainbow truck scales. When Martinez went in the scales office, Hartline stole the truck and headed northbound on Interstate 15.”

“Hartline said he thought that zombies were chasing him and that they were clinging to the truck. Hartline said he swerved the truck side-to-side to try and shake the zombies off. A short time later, he crashed the big rig (which belongs to RC Scott Transport of North Carolina). Martinez did not originally tell officers that Hartline was in the truck because he was not supposed to have passengers.

Hartline was arrested Saturday and charged today with assault with a deadly weapon and other felonies. Along with the assault count, Hartline is charged with auto theft, attempted auto theft, reckless driving, hit-and-run resulting in injury, driving without a license and multiple sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegations.

The defendant, who is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta, was slated to make his initial court appearance this afternoon at the Southwest Justice Center.

(previous story)

CHP launches extensive investigation into big rig crash; 6 vehicles, 8 injuries, suspect allegedly saw “zombies”

WIRE SERVICE UPDATE -TEMECULA – A 19-year-old suspected of stealing a big rig and driving out of control on Interstate 15, triggering a chain reaction crash that injured at least a half-dozen people, took the 18-wheeler because he thought ”zombies” were chasing him, authorities said today.

Jeremiah Clyde Hartline, of Tennessee, was arrested on suspicion of auto theft and receiving stolen property in connection with a multi-vehicle crash that occurred around 6 p.m. Saturday on northbound Interstate 15, near Temecula Parkway.

Reports that a second suspect was involved proved unsubstantiated, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Hartline allegedly stole the tractor-trailer when the driver of the rig stepped out to complete paperwork at the CHP’s Rainbow Canyon commercial vehicle compliance station just off the interstate.

Officer Nathan Baer said the suspect, a transient, had hitched a ride with the northbound trucker and was apparently under the influence of an unknown substance when he began to hallucinate.

”He told our investigators that he thought he saw zombies chasing after him,” Baer said.

According to the CHP, Hartline slid behind the wheel of the idling truck and stomped the accelerator, heading onto the freeway, but less than two miles into the ride encountered trouble steering the rig, which was loaded with strawberries.

The truck sideswiped a Toyota Tacoma pickup, causing that vehicle to collide with a Toyota 4Runner pickup, which hit a Mercedes-Benz, according to Baer.

The Tacoma overturned, while the Mercedes-Benz sedan and 4Runner spun into the center divider, Baer said.

The big rig veered to the left, out of control, striking a Ford Taurus and a Honda Accord before jackknifing and blocking all four traffic lanes, according to the CHP.

Baer said Hartline leapt from the semi and ran to a van that had stopped nearby, climbing inside and demanding that the driver take him away. The witness detained Hartline until CHP officers arrived.

Hartline was treated for minor injuries at a hospital and booked into the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta, where he’s being held in lieu of $5,000 bail. Charges are expected to be filed Wednesday if he doesn’t post bond before then.

The occupants of the Tacoma — Kyle Schlosser of San Jacinto and Sarah Small of Hemet — were seriously injured in the crash and remain hospitalized, according to Baer.

The occupants of the other vehicles suffered minor to moderate injuries, Baer said.

The freeway was closed for three hours for the cleanup and investigation.

(previous story)

UPDATE: CHP launches extensive investigation into big rig crash; 6 vehicles involved; 8 people injured

The California Highway Patrol has launched an extensive investigation into a six-vehicle crash involving a semi tractor-trailer on Interstate 15 Saturday evening, April 6, near Highway 79 in Temecula. The incident resulted in eight people sustaining injuries and northbound freeway traffic being severely impacted for seven hours.

Based on the limited information available at this time, it appears that the case began when a 2007 Freightliner three-axle truck towing a trailer was taken without the driver’s permission from the scale area at the CHP’s Rainbow Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility (housed with the Border Patrol checkpoint) at about 6 p.m.

“The driver was inside the office to get his paperwork after having the rig weighed when he noticed his truck leaving the scale area,” said CHP public information officer Nathan Baer.

The truck was then driven northbound onto Interstate 15. “The unknown driver was operating the combination vehicle in an erratic manner,” the CHP said. Authorities are uncertain if there were one or two individuals inside the big rig at that point.

When the Freightliner was unsafely moved towards the left, it collided with a 2001 Toyota Tacoma pick-up driven by Kyle Schlosser, 22, of San Jacinto. That collision caused the Tacoma to collide with a 2006 Toyota 4-Runner, being driven by Anne Lennala, 56, of Temecula, and a 2006 Mercedes Benz, driven by Timothy Varga, 39, of Temecula. As a result, the Tacoma overturned and came to rest on its roof, while the 4-Runner and the Mercedes spun into the center divider.

The Freightliner continued traveling northbound and moments later collided with a 2009 Ford Taurus, driven by Kristine Thrower, 42, of Las Vegas, Nevada, and a 2000 Honda Accord, driven by Dio Nomany, 49, of Lompoc, Calif. The Taurus then collided with the concrete center divider and came to rest. The Honda came to rest on the right shoulder of the freeway. The person driving the Freightliner then lost control of the vehicle and the big rig overturned onto its right side, then slid to a stop facing a northwesterly direction, blocking all four lanes of northbound Interstate 15 just north of Temecula Parkway.

Witnesses at the scene reported there were two individuals inside the Freightliner at the time of the crash, adding that one male occupant quickly exited the rig and left the scene as a passenger in a white van. The other occupant, Jerimiah Hartline of Tennessee was transported via ambulance to Rancho Springs Hospital for treatment of pain due to minor injuries. A source on site said it appeared Hartline was under the influence of some type of substance. After being medically cleared, Hartline was arrested on charges of possessing stolen property and booked into the Southwest Detention Facility.

The individuals sustaining the most severe injuries in the multi-vehicle crash were Schlosser (driver of the Tacoma) and his passenger, Sarah Small, 19, of Hemet. Schlosser’s injuries were listed as moderate, while Small’s were categorized as major.

Lennala, the driver of the 4-Runner; and Thrower, the driver of the Tauras, and her passenger, Rosanna O’Gorman, 42, of Las Vegas, all sustained moderate injuries. Varga, who was driving the Mercedes, and Nomany, in the Honda, both suffered minor injuries.

All injured parties were transported to area hospitals.

The big rig and trailer were fully loaded with fresh strawberries when the incident occurred.

“It required two heavy duty tow trucks to upright the vehicle,” said the CHP, who added that no hazardous materials were spilled as a result of the collision.

Traffic was let through the area of the accident one vehicle at a time for seven hours, utilizing the dirt area in the center divider.

Officer Baer said the complexity of the incident has led to the tractor-trailer being impounded for forensic study by the CHP.

“Our officers are currently re-interviewing several individuals to make certain determinations in this complex investigation,” said Baer.


(previous version)

TEMECULA – Authorities have reported that two people suffered major injuries in a four-car crash in Temecula on northbound Interstate 15 near Highway 79.

The accident was reported at 6:14 p.m. Saturday, April 6, said Riverside County Fire Department spokeswoman Melody Hendrickson.

Spectators reported that one of the vehicles was a big rig, which overturned and blocked all lanes of northbound Interstate 15. It was carrying a load of strawberries, which ultimately had to be unloaded via forklifts.

One source at the scene said the big rig had been stolen at the Temecula Border Checkpoint and that the driver appeared to be under the influence of some kind of illegal substance.

“The incident commander reported the traffic collision involved four vehicles,” Hendrickson said. “There were three patients transported to an area hospital via ground ambulance — two major and one minor.’

Two people were extricated from at least one of the vehicles 22 minutes after the crash was reported, she said.

Traffic traveling northbound on Interstate 15 was at a standstill for over three hours Saturday evening. When cars were ultimately allowed through the area, one at a time, they were diverted into the center median area’s dirt surface to bypass the accident.

Traffic was significantly backed up to State Route 76 and the impact continued until Sunday morning at about 1 a.m.

One driver said it took her two and a half hours to drive a five-mile segment from the Mission Road onramp until she could go around the crash site.

The California Highway Patrol is heading up the investigating into the cause of the accident, Hendrickson said.

(previous version)

Big rig overturns on 15 freeway in Temecula; causes huge delays

TEMECULA – Traffic headed northbound on I-15 through Temecula was at a standstill for over two hours Saturday evening after a big rig carrying strawberries overturned near state Route 79 S. The crash was reported at about 6 p.m Saturday night. All lanes remained closed until about 1 am Sunday morning.

The big rig was blocking all lanes of the northbound I-15. Traffic was diverted to the center median in the dirt, where one car at a time was allowed to pass. By 7:30 pm, traffic was backed up all the way to Fallbrook. By 8 pm traffic was backed up to the SR 76. It took over two and a half hours to drive 5 miles from Fallbrook past the scene of the crash, which was between the 79 South offramp and Rancho California Road offramp.

It is reported that in addition to the overturned truck carrying strawberries, there were also two to three cars overturned on the freeway. It is also reported, yet Valley News/Village News has not been able to verify the report, that three people were hospitalized with major injuries.

Full story to follow as information becomes available.

31 Responses to "UPDATE: Man who blamed big rig crash on zombies pleads guilty, maximum sentence is 5 years"

  1. Ed G.   April 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Traffic was horrendous. Had to run to Fallbrook at 7:45pm and it was backed up all the way to Hwy 76. The side road in Rainbow was also crowded, so had to take 76-E to Pala and head North back into Temecula. Unbelievable.

  2. JG   April 7, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Traffic was still horrible at 11:30pm when I was headed home from Fallbrook to Temecula. I ended up also taking Rainbow.

  3. How   April 7, 2013 at 10:51 am

    How did it end up like this ??

  4. Just me...   April 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Traffic Jam…

  5. RBc   April 7, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I was headiing to temecula but i was stuck in traffic for 2hrs… i have to take the rainbow valley blvd… RBC

  6. vc   April 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Took 3 hrs to get from Deer Springs/Mountain Meadows Road to Temecula. Crazy night for sure. Lots of people were using the shoulder as a lane. (left and right)

  7. Larry   April 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    The 15 & 215 has become one big danger zone through Temecula because people don’t know how to drive the speed limit as well as have a little road couresty to other drivers. Everyone has a destination but some drivers think they should be ahead of everyone else and so doing a lot of accidents occur. I avoid the area as much as I can.Lower the speed limits and ticket those that try to buck the line of cars to get off at an exit and hang out in other lanes as they try to nose into line.

  8. FDA   April 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Everyone always forgets the back way through De Luz…

  9. Vincent   April 7, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Cops did not do anything but standing around. No one direct the traffic. It was very poorly organized.

  10. Dennis   April 8, 2013 at 2:59 am

    I’v always noticed that the police NEVER try to expedite traffic flow around a traffic accident. I realize that the safety of the emergency vehicles and personnel is paramount, but they ought to give a little thought to helping the traffic that is piling up get passed the blockage. It never ceases to amaze me that with ten or twelve cops standing around with their cars blocking the right three lanes when the accident is off on the right shoulder, that NOBODY is trying to move the traffic around the incident. That IS their job, isn’t it?

  11. Bert   April 8, 2013 at 3:04 am

    In the 1960s I worked in Anaheim for Autonetics and traveled from Fallbrook each day on the old two lane road. Some mornings I would travel from Fallbrook to Corona and not pass another vehicle in either direction. All our problems are due to out of control population.

  12. observant   April 8, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Vincent and Dennis, that’s government in action. Bert, spot on too.

  13. Peace   April 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    @Just me #4 Lol!!! Strawberry perhaps??

  14. Rob from LA.   April 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I didn’t see a traffic office around at all anywhere.

    Just once cop at the freeway on-ramp.

    I was stuck on TM Pkway for 2 hours trying to get on Freeway,
    Once I was on; it took 20 mins to get to Lake Elsinore.

  15. Heads UP   April 9, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Hello! He was being chased by ZOMBIES! Watching too much Walking Dead I guess. I sincerely hope the injured get well soon.

  16. Me   April 9, 2013 at 10:19 am

    $5000 bail?

    For a transient with no roots to California? Better hope nobody pays his $500 bailbond…..or he’ll be gone.

  17. googahlooha   April 9, 2013 at 11:10 am

    ….that particular stretch of freeway has been a veritable stomping ground for Zombies ever since i can remember…..

  18. @ Bert   April 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    If Southern California wasn’t so much of an asset people wouldn’t want to move here. Be glad that it isn’t a low income crime area.

    People in Temecula seem to be far more rude than people in Fallbrook.

  19. momz   April 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I see Zombies everyday in town. You can see a lot of them in the Albertsons parking lot hanging out. Or down Alturas Road. Why you think there are so many police in that area. They see them too.

  20. not right   April 10, 2013 at 2:46 am


  21. FedUp   April 10, 2013 at 7:24 am

    California is chock full of idiots like this moron that saw zombies. Our governor and the legislature continue to release people like this back into the community as well. I’m not saying that happened in this case, but most of the folks being let out are addicts and were serving time for drug offenses. I suspect these types of incidents will happen more often.

  22. Julie   April 10, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Uhm, this guy was obviously on something! I am so glad nobody died. The driver should lose his job for having passengers and the zombie fearing guy certainly needs some kind of psychiatric help. I read he’s in jail on only a $5000 bond????? Some idiot will probably bail him out and he’ll take off and then who knows what kind of disaster he’ll cause…. geez

  23. Fallbrook Blues   April 10, 2013 at 11:17 am

    They need to order that nut to stop watching AMC’s The Walking Dead!!

  24. WTFF?   April 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm


  25. Re?????   April 10, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Oh for Pete’s sake!!! Next thing you know there will be Werewolves roaming our town!! I agree with you "not right" for this idiot or psychotic individual to be released, when there are still zombies on the loose, is ridiculous. He needs more than an evaluation, he needs help. I’ll bet there are zombies in jail too, did they think of that?

  26. Temecula mom   April 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    @Julie, It says $500,000 bond not $5,000

    I just have to say, after watching Walking Dead I was dreaming about zombies every night. Good thing I don’t do drugs. Praying for all involved… even the idiot(s).

  27. lol   April 12, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Where did he get those drugss??

  28. attention to detail   April 12, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    @Temecula mom. If you read the story posted before the recent update it says $5000 bail. So Julie was correct when she posted her comment. You came in after the new update

  29. Temecula mom   May 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Yes, it says $5,000 in a previous version. It is the third sentence above the advertisement.

  30. Mental Hospital Not Jail   May 16, 2013 at 9:13 am

    You’re right …. most people in jail / prison are there because of drugs. Why do they do drugs? Because they have mental disorders. Most of the people in jail are on psychotropic meds. Solution? Open mental hospitals and treat these people or keep them off the streets in a safe environment. For those of you not familiar with the "system," it is not a safe environment and they don’t do adequately treat the primary problem, which is mental illness. So, yeah he’s an idiot due to a mental disease and self-medicating through drugs. Get educated people. Bring back the state mental institutions.

  31. Preston   May 20, 2013 at 7:38 am

    We would love to fund the State Mental Institutions but we spent all our money on Power Ball


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