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Elderly man found dead in trunk identified

Published On: Aug 06 2014 06:43:32 AM CDT   Updated On: Jun 13 2014 06:11:00 AM CDT

La Crosse police say an elderly man was found dead in the trunk of a vehicle after an officer tried pulling over the man behind the wheel. Doug Forbes says the vehicle is his 79-year-old father's taxi, and the body inside is his father, Merle. Jennifer Hoff reports.


La Crosse police said an elderly man was found dead in the trunk of a vehicle after an officer tried pulling over the man behind the wheel.

The victim is identified as 79-year-old Merle Forbes, according to his son, Doug Forbes. Merle Forbes is the father of Curtis Forbes, who is serving time for a 1980 homicide.

The La Crosse Police Department said an officer ran the plates on a car just after 1 a.m. Friday near downtown La Crosse. It came up as stolen and the driver did not match the owner's description.

Forbes was reported missing and endangered from Platteville Thursday, according to La Crosse police. The officer tried to pull the car over, which led to a chase on Highway 35 toward Holmen. That chase ended with the suspect rear-ending another vehicle and rolling over. The driver, 25-year-old Timmy Johnson Jr., of Lancaster, was taken into custody.

Officers found Forbes in the trunk of the stolen car and was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said his injuries appeared to be from an assault prior to the crash. An autopsy was scheduled for Friday.

Tri-State Ambulance officials told News 8 two people were taken to the hospital after the crash.  One of them had life-threatening injuries, the other had non-life-threatening injuries.

"When [the stolen car] went off-road, it went up the slope and rolled over, and came back down to  where it's sitting right now," said Chief Michael McHugh of the Holmen Police Department. "Any high-speed-chase-type accident usually results in significant damage, and sometimes death."

Chief McHugh said it's too early to say how fast the stolen car was going.

There are multiple law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation.

"The La Crosse police, of course, were the originating agency," McHugh said. "We have the Wisconsin State Patrol coming in to do a traffic accident reconstruction."

Both lanes of Highway 35 in the impacted area re-opened to traffic around 6:30 a.m. Friday.

Criminal charges are pending for Johnson Jr.

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