BY LEN WELLS
A Mount Vernon, Illinois man is behind bars accused of shooting a Fairfield man Monday afternoon at a house southwest of Grayville. The victim has been identified as Ronald D. Jolly, 46 of Fairfield. The suspect has been identified as Ashton T. Harper, 27 of Mount Vernon. The shooting scene was on White County Road 2400 North, just west of the Title Loan business south of Interstate 64.
According to witnesses, Jolly fled on foot from the house where he was shot and flagged down a passing motorist for help. Bleeding from his wounds, Jolly was taken by ambulance from the scene to a landing zone where he was subsequently airlifted by helicopter to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville.
According to police, the suspect, Ashton Harper fled the scene in a 2012 gray Subaru and was last seen by the public around 2:45 pm in Grayville near the Edwards-White County line. Police were alerted he was likely armed with a shotgun.
Shortly after 5 pm, an officer with the Mount Carmel Police Department spotted Harper’s Subaru and attempted to perform a traffic stop. Harper sped away, said Wabash County Sheriff Derek Morgan, leading police on a chase from outer Poplar Road, covering E 840 Road, across to Wabash 17 Avenue, back up on Friendsville Avenue, ultimately ending on North 2270 Blvd at a residence.
Sheriff Morgan said Harper then drove through several fields and along a tree line before stopping in a shed where he fled on foot.
A foot pursuit ensued with officers eventually losing sight of their suspect. By then, additional officers were called for backup and an Illinois State Police SWAT Team joined the manhunt. Tracking dogs helped police narrow their search as an Illinois State Police aircraft joined the hunt. Shortly after 9 pm, Harper was finally taken into custody in a very remote area just into neighboring Lawrence County.
In addition to charges related to the alleged shooting incident and the police chase, Harper was wanted on warrant out of Wayne County for being in possession of a stolen vehicle.
Illinois State Police detectives are the lead agency investigating the shooting. State Police Crime Scene officers processed the shooting scene, wrapping up their investigation in the early morning hours on Tuesday.
Jolly Apparently Not Critically Wounded
After receiving treatment from doctors at Deaconess Hospital, Jolly allegedly left the hospital on foot, wearing nothing but a hospital gown. Witnesses spotted Jolly near Raben Tire in Evansville where he was allegedly picked up by an unknown individual and driven to a friend’s home. Officials said Jolly left the hospital “against doctor’s advice.” The nature and severity of Jolly’s injuries were not immediately available. Authorities have not yet released the type of weapon used in the shooting.
Victim and Suspect Both Have Criminal History
According to court records, Ashton Harper was on parole at the time of the alleged shooting. Prison records show he was released on parole from the prison in Pinkneyville on August 25 of last year after serving part of a four year sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm out of Jefferson County. He was not due to be released from parole until August 25, 2022.
The shooting victim, Ronald D. Jolly also has a significant criminal history as well. At the time of the shooting, Jolly was awaiting trial in Wayne County on two Class-3 felony charges of aggravated battery in a public place and a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest stemming from his arrest January 21 of this year. He was scheduled to be back in court July 27 for a pretrial hearing.
As of late Tuesday morning, Harper was still being held by authorities in Lawrence County, pending transfer back to White County. White County State’s Attorney Denton Aud is awaiting reports from state and local police before filing formal charges.